8 ways to make visiting the dentist easier for kids

There’s no doubt that a trip to the dentist can be a daunting experience for many children. Just the mention of a visit can result in protests and in some cases, a tantrum or two. Neither fun for parent or child. 

The clinical environment, seemingly intimidating equipment, strange noises, unfamiliar faces and required patience can make them feel anxious, restless and scared. However, regular dental check-ups are essential to maintain good oral health. 

As a parent or caregiver, there are several things you can do to make the experience less stressful for your child. Here are some tips on how to get your child excited about a visit to the dentist (okay, maybe not excited, but at least willing!). 

Start visits to the dentist from an early age 

The earlier you start taking your child to the dentist, the more comfortable they will likely be with the process. The Australian Dental Association recommends that a child’s first dental visit should occur within six months of their first tooth appearing, and no later than their first birthday. Early visits will help familiarise your child with the process and experience, making future visits less intimidating. 

Choose a kid friendly dentist 

Choosing a dentist who is great with children (like Dr’s Marc and Marian at Crows Nest Dentists) can make a big difference in how comfortable your child feels. Our dentists are trained and have experience working with children and understand their unique needs. It’s important that your child feels comfortable with the dentist that is looking after them. At Crows Nest Dentists, we have toys, games and even TV screens on the ceiling to offer distraction and help kids feel more relaxed.  

Stick with the same dentist 

When a child sees the same dentist growing up, it promotes continuity of care and helps establish a more trusting relationship. Over time, the dentist will not only become more familiar with a child’s unique dental history and oral health needs, but will have developed a personal rapport. Visiting the same dentist over time should help to build confidence and create more familiarity with the practise and the people that work there. 

Use positive language 

When talking to your child about the dentist, try not to use any negative language that might create fear or anxiety. Use positive language that emphasises the importance of good oral health and makes the experience fun. Example phrases that you might like to use include ‘the dentist helps keep our teeth healthy and strong’ or ‘the dentist is a friend who helps us take care of our teeth’. 

You might also like to use kid friendly dental phrases incorporating their favourite interests (dinosaurs, barbie etc) to help get them excited. Think ‘T-Rex teeth’ or ‘Princess fillings’.

Bring comfort items and any favourite distractions 

For younger children, comfort items like a favourite toy, blanket, or stuffed animal can help them to feel more secure during their dental visit. They can hold onto their comfort item during the exam or treatment, which can help to soothe them. 

Items that can help provide a distraction like iPads, portable game devices and books can be a great way to keep children engaged while they’re waiting for treatment. If your kids are normally limited in usage of these at home, then a trip to the dentist can be a great opportunity for them to clock up some extra time. 

Role-playing for younger children

Role-playing can be an effective way to prepare younger children for a dental visit. A really easy way to start is with a simple game of dentist/patient. Pretend to be the dentist while your child is the patient. Use a toothbrush to count their teeth and act out what the different dental tools do (you’ll be sure to have fun acting out the suction machine). Role-playing can help your child understand what to expect and make the experience less scary. 

Reward good behaviour 

After a successful visit to the dentist, reward your child for their good behaviour. This can be something as simple as a sticker or a small toy (try to avoid sweets, so you don’t negate the purpose of their visit). This creates positive reinforcement and helps to make each subsequent visit easier. 

Taking your child to the dentist 

Going to the dentist doesn’t have to be a scary or intimidating experience for children. At Crows Nest Dentists, we’re committed to creating a safe and fun environment for children, resulting in happy and healthy smiles. As an added bonus, we offer no-gap dental for kids under 13. Make an appointment online or get in touch with our friendly team today.