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Preparing Your Child For The Dentist

on Wednesday, 07 August 2013. Posted in Toddler Tips, Family Life

Find out tips and tricks on nixing the fear factor out from trips to the dentist.

Preparing Your Child For The Dentist

No one likes dentist appointments. Not adults, not kids, probably not even dentists themselves come their turn to open wide. It’s scary, uncomfortable and the tools have an uncanny ability of reducing even a fully-grown man to tears. So, hopeful mamas, how do you turn the bi-annual kicking and screaming fest into a civilised trip?


Start young

The sooner a child visits the dentist, the better. It’s best to start when your child hits the 1 year mark or when his or her first tooth emerges.  Search high and low for a paediatric dentist who is friendly with kids and understands them and whom is able to care for all your child’s needs, be it a periodic preventive visit or an emergency treatment. Establishing a relationship with the dentist from an early age will encourage familiarity and trust.  

Talk up the visit

The main reason kids hate visits to the dentist is that they don’t know what to expect. Uncertainty breeds fear, so explain the process as much as you possibly can using simple, fun, child-friendly language.

Try not to scare your child with the prospect of having to undergo treatments that would scare the living daylights out of you too! So long as your keep your attitude cheerful and positive, there’ll be less chance of tears and tantrums.

Reading stories about trips to the dentist are also an excellent way to demystify the process. Check out the following books on


Watch your words

One wrong word and you could send your kids screaming into the woods. Words like ‘painful’ and ‘hurt’ are sure to turn their little alarms bells on, so when explaining the process, just tell them that the dentist wants to look for sugar spots to clean, that he wants to play a counting game with their teeth, or that he’s just checking to make sure their teeth are in tip-top shape for the tooth fairy.

Avoid reality

Do not take your kids to your own dentist appointment. Watching the dentist poke and prod inside your mouth runs a far higher risk of it freaking your child out rather than calmly preparing them for their own visit. Instead, using the tips above, try to gently explain the upcoming procedures minus the visuals; the less they see the better!

Play pretend

If you’re taking your little one for his or her first ever appointment with the dentist, consider playing pretend before the actual visit. Be the dentist. Pick up a toothbrush and pretend to count their cute little teeth. Most dentists advise parents to do this before any dental appointment, be it first or the tenth. It calms the child.

One mum shared her experience: “I held up a mirror to show how a dentist checks teeth. I then reversed roles and let my child become the dentist, while I sat in the hot seat. I gave her a toothbrush and let her start cleaning my teeth. It worked a charm. She seemed almost excited for her upcoming appointment.”

Prepare for some tears

Even after the explanation, there could still be a whole lot of fuss. Your little bunny may start out happy, and even anticipate the visit (yep, even with proper handling, this does happen sometimes), but panic could kick in begin the moment you enter the clinic. Prepare for crying, wriggling and screaming like you’ve never seen before.

The best thing you can do for yourself in this situation is not to get alarmed or embarrassed. The staff is sure to be used to such behaviour, so feel free to even enlist their help and expertise. Bring toys and books with you as a distraction, so instead of surprising you with a tantrum, your child could end up surprising you with a rose garden made from play-dough.

Avoid bribery

As they say, we don’t negotiate with terrorists, and in this particular case, your kicking, screaming child is the terrorist! Not only is it a short-term solution, they’ll learn to demand, and expect some form of reward after every single visit from that day forth.

As any dentist will tell you, you can reward your child with praise, hugs and kisses after the appointment but not sweets; it sends mixed messages. On one hand, the dentist is telling them to avoid sweets, and on the other hand, you’re offering candies like it’s Halloween come early.

Make oral hygiene a habit for life

On top of all that, spend time teaching your child the importance of good oral hygiene in general. Explain to them that regular brushing and flossing will keep teeth strong and healthy, and so long as their teeth are trouble-free, the less visits they’ll need to make to the dentist. Everyone’s happy!

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