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New experiences can sometimes be traumatic for young children, and your kid’s dentist visit is often no exception.

But it’s important that your children don’t feel like what they’re getting themselves in to is anything that needs to be feared. With the right attitude, approach and preparation, their feelings about going to the dentist should be preparing them for a life-long partnership of healthy teeth and beautiful smiles.

Here are ten excellent preparation tips for your kid’s dentist visit.

1. Get in early

Starting kids at a young age is going to make the process easier. If you get the kids in early with their visits to get their teeth checked, they’ll be familiar with the environment. That way, when any significant work is needed, it’s going to be easier for them to cope, and for you to manage their expectations if they find themselves in a familiar environment

2. Mind your language

When talking to your kids about what the dentist is like, avoid the kind of words that may load them with anxiety. Words like ‘drill’ or ‘hurt’ or ‘needle’ or ‘pain’. You’re also going to want to avoid telling them about any unpleasant experiences you’ve had in the past.

3. Show them how it’s done

I ask some parents to have their kids tag along to their appointments. Through watching you go through the process without any stress or worry, they’ll see that there’s nothing for them to fret about, and they themselves will not be as apprehensive about what the experience holds for them.

4. Start small, then work your way up

A dental practice with experienced doctors in it will know the best way to deal with kids who have some degree of anxiety about them. If treatment needs to be undertaken on an anxious kid, our experience tells us that we should start small. For example, if the child has a pair of cavities in their teeth – one small and one large –  then we start with the smaller one, so the child is in and out of the chair much quicker.

5. Ensure you have their trust

Maintaining trust is important when it comes to your kid’s dentist visit. We encourage parents to not do or say anything that’s going to scare the kids about coming to see us. It’s a necessary part of their health care, and having a dentist visit looming over them like a threat isn’t the way to develop a healthy relationship between dentist and young patient. A visit to the dentist is something they need to do; something that’s good for them. It’s not something to be used as a threat to ensure chores get done.

6. Pretend at home

Before your first appointment, play ‘pretend’ with your kid to be both dentist and the patient. With a toothbrush, count their teeth, or hold up a mirror and show them what your dentist might do when checking their teeth. Even let them role-play by using a toothbrush to clean the teeth of a favourite toy. They’ll get familiar with the routine, and the real thing should be easier.

7. Lead by example

Kids will generally become anxious about visiting the dentist most of the time because of anxiety that’s been transmitted to them, either from you or from other kids in their circle. You can’t control what the kids say to each other in the playground, but you can do your best to project a positive image of the experience to them. You may not have had a great time getting your teeth seen to growing up, but that’s not necessarily how things are going to go for your kids. Practices, technology and techniques have all improved since you were young!

8. It’s a gas!

While it’s not a universal practice among dentists, using happy gas (otherwise known as nitrous oxide) is a fairly common way for dentists to keep the kids calm. Nitrous oxide is safe for use in children and there are no long-term side effects.

9. Incentives

Ask around and see if your kid’s dentist has a TV installed in the ceiling for the patient to enjoy while we do our work. Some practices have Netflix as well, so the presence of this often leads to arguments between siblings about who wants to get on the chair first. As a bonus, we offer the reward of stickers at the end. Something about stickers always helps (they’re also available to well-behaved adults – upon request)

10. Get some advice

Your dentist is going to be more than happy to explain their best advice and guidance for you so that you can best prepare your kids for their first visit. Your kid’s dentist will have years of experience behind them and will have seen it all. All kids are different, so it’s best to know what you might expect.

What tips would you give for a kid’s dentist visit? Tell us in the comments below.

  • This is a really good article and has come in handy at a great time, as we have to take our 3 year old soon! Im worried about how he will go as he can be scared of things like this so hopefully this helps to get him through it

    Reply

  • I took my son just before the lockdown for the first time and I explained it too him first and the dentist did everything in stages with instructions and he was a champ

    Reply

  • What amazing tips this article has . Thank you !

    Reply

  • I’ve no tips. My 6yr old has Down Syndrome and is extremely anxious for dentist and doctors (2 months ago the cardiologist had to full on sedate her to do an electrocardiogram). She won’t open her mouth for the dentist let alone to have the dentist a look and use any tools in her mouth. She’s super strong, I can’t hold her by myself (some wks ago she had her bloods taken and we held her with 3 adults and a 4th adult took her blood). We followed most of these tips. I suppose one day she will need full sedation just to get her teeth checked. In the meantime I do everything to take care of her teeth (always with the chance she chomps down and bites me) and so far no cavities :)

    Reply

  • Some great tips! We got in early with our little one to get her used to the dentist.

    Reply

  • These are great tips already. I know I get anxious about going to the dentist so I really need to hide that. Praising them for their braveness may help.

    Reply

  • gas is good if it requires needles

    Reply

  • When my daughter saw the dentist for the first time, I booked her in at the same time as myself. I did it this way so that she could watch me get my teeth checked first, so that she knew it was okay and that they weren’t going to hurt her. She sat on my lap in the chair and had her teeth checked and did everything the dentist asked of her. I reckon it was the best thing I could’ve done for her to have the beat first dentist experience possible.

    Reply

  • My 11 year old still hates the dentist. Any medical type procedures make her very nervous despite doing lots of strategies etc to help her.

    Reply

  • I think its good to speak positively about the dentist instead of bringing our fears to our children.

    Reply

  • Oh gosh I know I should probably send my daughter soon so this is great

    Reply

  • Try to find a picture book to read to them about a dentist visit – we found reading stories about things really helped.

    Reply

  • Take them from a young age and don’t let them see you or any other adults anxious about going as this will rub off on them.

    Reply

  • My teenager developed anxiety about the dentist. She had always been fine before. He let us come in and just sit in the chair to get her used to the space again. He is so patient :)

    Reply

  • Good ideas!

    Reply

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