How to speak to your children about visiting the dentist

Appointments with the dentist can be a stressful thing for anyone, let alone your kids.  It’s common for children to have major apprehensions about the dentist, and to feel intimidated or scared by the prospect of visiting the clinic.  As parents, it’s important to know how to speak to your kids about the dentist so their minds will be more at ease and appointments will run a lot smoother.  Oral health care is a lifelong thing, so it’s important to get things started the right way.

Let us give you some tips on how to not only talk to your children about the dentist, but also things you can do to prepare them for the appointment.

Why you need to speak to your children about the dentist

Think about it for a second, you’re asking your small child to have a new experience, one that will be very unfamiliar, and in most cases, take place in a less than playful setting.  The dentist’s office can seem threatening with all the new people around, some of whom are often masked up, the unfamiliar machines and tools located in the office, and the knowledge that the appointment is about them.

If your child isn’t accustomed to visiting the dentist, they’ll likely be rightfully cautious, if not outright frightened.  This isn’t good because you really need them to comfortable with dental appointments as these are something they’ll need to do for their entire lives.  It’s important to get off on the right foot, otherwise your child’s oral health can suffer in the short term and the long run alike.  That’s why it’s so important to prepare your child as best you can for their trip to the dentist.

Know what to say and how to say it

It goes without saying that you’ll really want to only portray the dentist in a positive way when you speak to your kids.  That means choosing your words wisely and omitting things that sound scary.  For example, mentioning things like waiting rooms, drills or needles can cause alarm.  Instead, you can try to make up some fun names instead, like “playroom”, or “humming stick”, or “pointy spritzer”, respectively.  Keep it sounding fun and your child will likely approach the visit with interest rather than dread.

Children also pick up on all your body language and mood, not just your words.  That’s why you need to keep a positive vibe whenever the dentist comes up.  Even though you might be feeling the strain of having to take a day off work or stressed out from organizing the trip to the dental office, you need to hide those thoughts from your kids.  Always make the children’s dentist out to be something beneficial or even fun, so your kids will look forward to it.  What you say will likely even be true, because a young child’s time with the dentist is usually quite different than that of us adults.  A child’s appointment rarely goes beyond a quick examination to check their teeth are progressing properly.

How to prepare your kids to visit the dentist

Young kids just want to have fun, so that’s how you need to approach a dental appointment.  It’s better not to spring it on them at the last minute either, so take some time beforehand to familiarize your kids with all things dental.  Last thing you want is to be scrambling for ways to make a back-to-school-checkup successful.  Here’s a few ways you can introduce your kids to dentistry:

  • Go to the bookstore and pick up one of many fun kid’s books about the dentist and read it with them.  Seeing fun-looking pictures of the dentist, in a familiar medium can make a big difference in your child’s perception.
  • Watch videos about the dentist online, choosing ones that are designed to educate small kids.  There are lots of options out there made just for this purpose.
  • Speak with your child about what to expect and tell them some of your own previous good experiences.  Obviously leave out that painful filling repair you had last year and focus instead on things like how nice and clean your teeth felt after, or how attractive the dentist made your smile.  Always keep it positive and playful so your child expects only good things.

Always make your at-home dental hygiene routine fun 

Help make dental appointments with kids easy by practicing at home.  Also, try to make teeth brushing time fun for your kids, so they’ll view dental care in a positive light.  You could even roleplay a game called “visit to the dentist”, costumes and all, so your child gets used to the idea and has fun doing it. 

Get to know your children’s dentist

Something that can really help with taking your child to the dentist is to visit the office for an introduction before the appointment.  If your child already knows your dentist, it will be much easier for them to relax during their visit, and also for you to talk to your kids about the dentist (put a face to a name as it were).  You as a parent will also feel more comfortable knowing that the introduction aspect is out of the way.

Plan the appointment in advance

Planning the proper appointment will help you reduce a lot of the hassles that could present themselves when you need to take your child to the dentist. 

Begin by booking a convenient appointment time, such as choosing a mid-morning slot.  This way your kids won’t be tired or cranky and will be more likely to have a fun visit. 

Make sure your kids get a good night’s sleep before too, otherwise they’ll be tired and miserable.  Neither of those are good things when it comes to introducing them to a new and potentially frightening experience.

The morning of, give your kids a good meal so they have the energy to make it through the appointment without getting cranky.  You can also bring some small snacks in case you need them.  Choose foods like apples or oranges instead of things like granola bars because the latter will leave a mess in your child’s mouth for the dentist to find.

Bring some distractions with you

Once you arrive at the dental office, you might need to wait to be seen by your dentist.  Of course, our team tries their best to honor all appointment times to the minute, especially those involving small children, but a short wait can sometimes happen.  That’s when having a couple of toys, a book, or even a tablet device with you can be a big help.  Giving your child a fun distraction will work wonders in keeping them calm for the appointment.  Likewise, if your child has a comfort blanket or security toy, then make sure you bring that too. 

Your own presence is the biggest comfort.  As parents ourselves, we know how it is.  That’s why we always accommodate parents to be in the room with their kids at all times.  There’s nothing like a mother or father being nearby to keep kids from worrying or getting upset.

Promise a fun reward after the appointment

As the cherry on top, you can promise your kids something for after they get through the dentist appointment. Choose something they’ll really enjoy.  A few good ideas are going to the zoo after or grabbing a happy meal from McDonalds (a rare occasion).  You could also have a small toy, or even some candy (yes, your dentist is recommending a sugary treat for your kids) ready as a reward.  You know your child best, so choose something that will keep your child happy and focused until the end of the appointment.

Having the right children’s dentist helps

It’s a fact that children require a special touch, not only in terms of interacting with your dentist but also in the size of tools used and types of dental checkups.  If your dentist isn’t familiar with seeing young patients, then they might not be a good place to take your children. 
We can’t speak for other dental clinics, but at any Martindale Dental location, our children’s dentistry team knows exactly how to make appointments go smoothly.  Our staff love kids, and it shows.  

Additional tips for taking your child to their first dentist visit

Bring an older sibling along:  Often having an older sibling present will encourage a young child to be brave

Ask your dentist if your child’s friend can be present: This can help make the visit fun, and it can also help your child be less scared

Take their favourite cuddly toy with you: If your child is anxious about visiting the dentist, having their trusted companion in their arms can make a big difference

Make it seem like their idea:  Using a little reverse psychology and pinning the situation so that it seems like visiting the dentist is your child’s idea can work well as an empowerment tool in certain situations

Provide positive reinforcement:  Continually tell your child what a great job they’re doing and how proud you are.  Keeping them confident will really pay off

Never get angry if things don’t go smoothly:  Chances are your child will get scared and may start to cry.  This is totally normal, and you should react in a caring but firm manner.  Kid’s appointments are usually quick, and the dentist will be finished before you know it

Bring some cool sunglasses to shade their eyes:  The overhead light in the dentist chair can be bright, so having some glasses to shield their eyes from glare will make the experience all the more comfortable

Ask your dentist for help:  Your children’s dentist is an expert in making the visit a comfortable one, so don’t be shy and ask for advice

In conclusion

If you are worried about bringing your young children to the dentist for any reason, the best thing you can do is reach out to our office for a quick chat.  We’ve pretty much seen it all and can help you come up with a workable plan to introduce your kids to a dental setting, so your appointment will be a breeze.  If you have questions, please contact us.

We’d also love to hear any suggestions parents might have about taking their kids to the dentist, so please don’t hesitate to share.

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