Visiting the dentist is a scary experience for many children. The dentist is a virtual stranger, even after several visits. Plus, the dentist and hygienists wear masks that cover their faces for most of the visit, making them appear even less friendly. It can be a very over stimulating experience with the bright lights, loud buzzing and smell of chemicals. Plus, the expectation of holding still for an extended length of time is frustrating for many children. Fortunately, there are some ways to make the visit a bit less frightening and easier for children to handle.

  • Find a pediatric dentist. Pediatric dentists have specialized training in treating children. Their offices are often designed to be more comfortable and inviting to children.

  • Start early. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children see a pediatric dentist as soon as their first tooth comes in, typically between six and twelve months of age. Getting children accustomed to dental visits from a young age often makes visits less traumatic.

  • Tell your child what to expect. Children typically only see the dentist twice a year. They may forget what happens at the visits in between appointments. Walk them through what to expect before each visit. Read books about going to the dentist. Don't gloss over parts that they struggled with previously. For example, if they became agitated when it was time to swish the fluoride rinse around their mouth, gently let them know that they will have to do it again. Neglecting to mention it could lead to more anxiety, as well as possible distrust in you when they are confronted with it again.

  • Practice good dental hygiene at home. Brushing and flossing your child's teeth daily will help keep teeth and gums healthy. This also may result in quicker and easier dental visits. Feeding your child a healthy diet and limiting sweets will also help to alleviate potential dental issues.

  • Let the braver child go first. Most people with multiple children have the oldest child receive treatment first. This isn't necessarily the best order. If a younger child is less fearful, let them go first.

  • Start some traditions. A few days before the dentist appointment, start reading books or watching cartoons about dentists, teeth and tooth care. Find a song about going to thedentist or make up one of your own. Sing the song in the car on the way to the appointment. Plan something special for after the dentist, such as a visit to the park or a trip to the movie theater. Do these things after every visit or even before to give your children good memories of going to the dentist.

  • Deal with your own fears. Many adults still have severe dental anxiety. Children pick up on their parents' worries. Your child won't be able to be calm or relaxed if she knows you are not. Take time to address your own issues before the appointment so you don't project your negative feelings onto your child's experience.


Rachael Moshman is a mom, freelance writer and blogger. She actually enjoys going to the dentist. rachaelmoshman.com