Child Dentist 2021 Miles_ Web

How to Prepare Kids for the Dentist

Comforting Kids at the Dentist

Children at the Dentist

New experiences, like going to the dentist for the first time, can be daunting for children because they don’t know what to expect. Yet these early appointments are important because they can offer peace of mind about your child’s oral health and development.

First-time parents or caregivers might need some help knowing where to start in navigating these conversations. With that in mind, here are some effective ways to decrease dental anxiety in children:

Start Early

Introduce the concept of the dentist at an early age. Their first birthday or when their first tooth emerges can be an ideal time to connect around this topic. Early exposure can help pique their curiosity about the dental environment and reduce negative feelings later on.

The American Academy of Dental Pediatrics recommends parents book a childs first dental visit before age one!

Choose a Child-Friendly Practice

Some offices cater to younger families, while others serve more of an aging population. You can do some cursory research (online and/or in person) to determine the environment and whether it might work for your family’s needs.

A kid-friendly practice can be a local family dentist or a specialized pediatric dentist. No matter which you choose, be sure that it feels inviting to children. Look for things like colorful decor, toys, and entertainment to help relax children during visits.

Parents comfort matters, too. Some dentists do not allow parents back in the operatory rooms with the children. Be sure to know what you are comfortable with and ask questions so that there aren’t any unwelcoming surprises.

Dental Toys at Home

Play can help communicate concepts to children that other ways cannot. Experts recommend using make-believe play or dolls to simulate dental visits at home. For instance, you could let the child take turns being the dentist and the patient. There are even fun play doctor kits you can give as gifts. This can help add some clarity to the experience and help the child get familiar with the future encounter.

Communicate Positively

It’s best to refrain from using negative language or sharing bad experiences about the dentist with your child. Instead, reframe visits to the dentists as an important part of a keeping your teeth healthy long-term.

Visit the Office

There are a lot of unfamiliar sounds within a dental practice. Hale Family Dentistry welcomes children of any age to visit the office to get acclimated to the clinical environment. Schedule a brief visit to the dental office ahead of the real appointment.

You and your child will then have a chance to can explore and ask questions to the dental team. This can help alleviate anxiety because then the child will know what to expect when the time comes for the checkup. When you book the appointment, be sure to ask if you can stop in beforehand for a tour. Any respectable dental office would love to show you around.

Explain the Process

Before the appointment, take the time to explain to your child what to expect during their visit to the dentist. Talk about the different tools that the dentist will use, such as the mirror, the dental chair, and the small cleaning instruments. Use age-appropriate language and try to make it sound as positive and exciting as you can to ease any fears or anxieties your child may have.

Play Educational Games

There are many dental-related games and apps available online that can help educate children about oral health and the importance of visiting the dentist. These interactive games can make learning fun and engaging for kids, helping them develop a positive attitude towards dental care.

Encourage Deep Breathing

Teach simple deep breathing exercises to help them relax during the appointment. Practice mindfulness together at home before the visit. (This is a great tip to help manage anxiety in general.) If your child needs any dental procedures like a filling, then this can be especially helpful if you spend time practicing beforehand.

Support Comfort Solutions

Children do best when there’s an element of familiarity. Bring along comforting items such as a favorite toy, book, or electronic device to distract the child and help take their mind off any apprehension. When you book your visit, be sure to ask if they offer any comfort solutions for children such as nitrous oxide (laughing gas). This can help release tension and improve their experience if they need any dental treatment. Many pediatric dentists or general dentists who see a lot of children offer comforting things like weighted blankets, pillows, and aromatherapy.

Offer Positive Reinforcement

During and after the dental visit, offer positive reinforcement to your child. Praise them for their bravery, cooperation, and for taking care of their teeth. This will help boost their self-confidence and make future dental visits less daunting. You can also reward them with small treats or special activities after their visit to make it more enjoyable. All kids who go to Hale Family Dentistry get to pick a prize from the prize drawer at the end of their appointment.

Be a Role Model

Children often pick up on their parents’ emotions, so it’s essential to remain centered throughout the dental appointment. Reassure the child that you are there to support them and that the team is there to help them maintain healthy teeth and a beautiful smile.

Read Books About the Dentist

Research children’s books that introduce the themes of going to the dentist and oral health in funny and/or age-appropriate ways. Reading these books together can be a bonding experience and help the child ask questions in a familiar environment. It may even become a family’s favorite book.

Final Tips for Parents 

Instilling good oral hygiene habits in children is an essential part of their dental health. Teach your child proper brushing and flossing techniques and emphasize the importance of taking care of their teeth. This will not only improve their overall oral health but also help them feel more confident and comfortable during their dental appointments.

  • Limit sugary snacks and drinks
  • Only use a pea size squeeze of toothpaste
  • Parents should assist with toothbrushing until age seven
  • Encourage healthy foods and eating habits
  • Visit the dentist for a check up every six months

Schedule an appointment with Dr. Jonathan Hale and we will make sure your kids love going to the dentist, and brushing their teeth, too!


About Lauren Caggiano

Lauren Caggiano is a Fort Wayne-based copywriter and editor. The daughter of a dental hygienist, she’s no stranger to the importance of oral health. (Thanks, mom!)

Dental Flippers vs. Partial Dentures