It’s not uncommon for toddlers to be a little nervous when entering the dentist office. It’s a new place with lots of instruments and strangers wanting to look inside their mouth. With some preparation and a positive attitude, parents can help kids have a good experience at the dentist and create a positive oral health foundation for their lifetime.
Here are 4 ways for how to keep a child calm at the dentist.
1. Start with Good Preparation
Preparing your child for dental work can begin before their appointment. Talk about their upcoming dental visit and educate your child on what to expect. Keep the conversation brief, ask them how they feel about it, and field questions with simple answers they’ll understand. You could try reading a bedtime story about the dentist, too (our favorite is “Daniel Goes to the Dentist”). Or play pretend by taking turns being the dentist and the patient and counting each other’s teeth! You could also let them pick out a comfort item from home to bring to their appointment, like a small stuffed animal or special blanket.
Finally, it might help to schedule sibling’s appointments back-to-back. Young children often want to do what their older brothers and sisters do, so having them get checkups together might make your youngest feel more comfortable.
2. Be a Great Role Model
Children learn through imitation and the influence of their parents. Teaching healthy oral hygiene habits and good brushing techniques at home will be your child’s first exposure to dental health. If you brush, floss, and have routine dental checkups, the concept will be familiar to them when it’s their turn.
3. Find the Right Pediatric Dentist
Although dental anxiety is something many people deal with, a pediatric dentist can help children feel more comfortable during visits. Not only do they specialize in treating babies through adolescents, but they do so in a way that is understandable by children of any age. They’ll walk through the steps of the appointment to reduce stress and turn ordinary procedures into kid-friendly ones by changing the words. For example, we call our teeth cleaning equipment “Teeth Ticklers” and the suction “Mr. Slurpy.”
Our Little Smiles pediatric dentistry offices are also designed with our littlest patients in mind. From the moment they step through our doors and see the play-set tree forts to sitting in the child-sized treatment chairs, we are focused on relieving jitters and making going to the dentist a positive experience.
4. Offer Support During & After the Visit
One of the simplest things for how to calm child at the dentist is for the parent to reassure them. Stay by their side, hold their hand, and praise your child’s bravery throughout the appointment. Your reactions will help them know how to react appropriately, so take cues from your peds dentist and hygienist and compliment your child on their cooperation. If your toddler becomes upset, reassure them you will be there the whole time, the staff will be very nice and gentle, and how proud you are of them.
After your child’s appointment, reflect on the experience. Ask them what they learned and if anything surprised them. Focus on the positives of the experience, and reference this when you take them to their next appointment.
If you anticipate your child being extra nervous at their appointment, give your child’s dentist a call and discuss your concerns beforehand. While the staff knows how to work with children and their dental anxiety, it is helpful to know your child’s fears ahead of time. This allows the dentist and hygienist to calmly take the lead if your toddler becomes upset during their appointment.
If you’re ready to tackle the first dental visit and you’re looking for a pediatric dentist near you, schedule an appointment with our Little Smiles team! We believe exceptional pediatric dental care can be combined with a great experience. Whether your child is scared of the dentist or not, we do everything we can to help them feel relaxed at their visit, has fun learning about oral health, and gets the care they need to maintain a happy, healthy little smile.