Helping Kids Love the Dentist

Visiting the dentist can be an unpleasant experience for many children and even for some adults, but for many the fear and thoughts of pain start as kids. Because dentist visits are a necessity, prepare your child by brushing daily, practicing dental visits and rewarding clean checkups. When your child learns to enjoy the dentist, he will take better care of his teeth and enjoy lifelong dental health.

Pain free dental exams begin at home. Prioritize dental hygiene with regular tooth brushing and flossing. These practices limit painful cavities and simplify dental visits. Teach your children how to brush each tooth, and make sure they brush at least twice a day. Make it fun for them and buy toothpaste that taste good or is colorful to keep kids interested.

A simple mouth model can help your child learn thorough brushing techniques. On a piece of cardboard, arrange miniature marshmallows into the shape of a mouth. With a toothbrush, show children how to brush each tooth surface. When it’s time to brush, bring the marshmallow model into the bathroom as a visual reminder to help your child brush each tooth surface. Maybe let the kids eat the marshmallows before brushing.

Hang a chart in the bathroom to track brushing activity. Use a sticker chart or other tool to mark each time your child brushes and flosses. Give rewards when the chart is full. Staying consistent is a great way to form good habits.

Because children should receive a professional dental cleaning and checkup every six months, most kids will remember the procedures from one visit to the next. The first visit, however, can be scary. Start by explaining what the dentist and hygienist will do. The dentist makes sure teeth are healthy, and the hygienist cleans the teeth.

Role-play what will happen during the dental checkup. Arrange a waiting room then call your child’s name and ask him to sit in a reclining chair. Drape a towel over his chest, and ask him to open his mouth wide. Take pictures with a camera or shine a flashlight into your child’s mouth. Gently brush your child’s teeth while he sits in the chair. After the pretend visit, praise your child and reward him with a special activity or other treat.

When it’s time to visit the real dentist, choose a kid-friendly dental office. While most individual dental insurance plans cover dental visits, make sure your plan covers visits to a local pediatric dentist. Pediatric dentists and hygienists provide a fun, non-threatening office atmosphere for children. Toys, books, an aquarium or kid-friendly wall décor help children feel at ease and reduce nervousness and it helps children feel confident and excited. Consider whether a dentist office also has orthodontic offerings. It will be an easier transition for a child to see the orthodontist in the same office as the dentist, if possible. Also look into what orthodontic coverage your insurance plan offers.

During a visit to a pediatric dental office, everyone in the dental office works together in helping your child feel comfortable and welcomed. The hygienist will discuss the tools in friendly terms and explain what’s happening throughout the appointment. The dentist will be kind and gentle while checking your child’s teeth and gums.

After the checkup, your child will receive stickers, toys or sugar-free gum. You can also provide positive reinforcement by rewarding good checkups with gifts or other incentives. Even if your child has a cavity, make sure each dental checkup ends with a fun experience. A trip to the zoo or a favorite toy will help your child associate dental visits with fun and motivate him to employ good dental habits at home.

Dental health starts when your children are young. Teach them good brushing and flossing skills, and choose a friendly pediatric dentist. With these tips, your child will grow up to enjoy the dentist and employ good dental hygiene for life.


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