For most adults, visiting the dentist regularly is just a routine part of life. For small children, however, it can be an unfamiliar and sometimes scary experience. Younger children are often unsure what to expect during a checkup, and may worry that going to the dentist will hurt or be uncomfortable. While this is a common fear for children, you have the unique opportunity as a parent to help create a sense of safety around dental visits. With a little patience and preparation, you can even turn it into something to look forward to!

Here at Children’s Dental Center, we want patients of all ages to be excited about their checkups, but we understand that so many unfamiliar sights, sounds, and people can make kids nervous. If you have a child who is scared of the dentist, they don’t have to be! Once they overcome their initial fears, most young patients realize that regular checkups aren’t anything to fear. Follow the tips below to get your child excited about taking care of their smile!

Dentist at Children's Dental Center and child patient with his mom

Start practicing at home

Practicing dental hygiene with your child at home can help familiarize them with an effective oral health routine. Even if they are too young to brush or floss their own teeth, you can give them an active role like picking out a fun toothbrush or choosing the toothpaste flavor. Set a timer for two minutes and brush together, then finish the job for them to make sure their teeth are clean. Talk to your child regularly about ways to improve dental health and the steps they can take to protect their own teeth. When kids are comfortable with a regular dental hygiene routine, visits to the dentist’s office will be more familiar than frightening.

There are also steps you can take at home to help keep your child’s mouth healthy, such as:

Keep things simple and positive

Too many details can overwhelm small children and add unnecessary anxiety. Instead, keep things simple and on their level. Let your child know the dentist will check their smile before counting and cleaning their teeth. If you really want to level up as a parent, check out several free games online that allow younger children to play “dentist” by interactively cleaning teeth!

When preparing your child for a dental checkup, it’s really important to keep things positive. Try to avoid words with negative connotations, like “shot”, “hurt”, or “pain.” Opt for positive phrases instead, such as “clean, strong teeth” or a “healthy smile.” This will help make the visit feel like something to look forward to rather than fear.

It’s not unusual for some parents to have their own anxiety about dental visits. If you aren’t completely comfortable with the dentist yourself, do your best to keep negativity from creeping into your words, voice, or actions. Your feelings about the dentist can greatly impact the kind of experience your child will have at their own visits.

Pretending is powerful

You can combat any unease your child feels about seeing the dentist by engaging in a little pretend play with them. Start by portraying the dentist and have your child be the patient. Count their teeth by using numbers or letters, then hold a mirror up and illustrate how the dentist may look around and clean the teeth. Then switch it up and let your child be the dentist, brushing your teeth for you or using the toothbrush on a stuffed animal or doll. Getting familiar with this routine can make you child’s dental visits much more comfortable!

Schedule appointments strategically  

It’s normal and age-appropriate for young children to cry, whine, or wiggle during a dental visit. Pediatric dentists are more than familiar with tantrums, and our office has definitely seen our fair share of them! If your child gets upset during a visit, just stay calm, but you may also be able to lessen the chances of this happening by planning appointment times strategically. Schedule visits for your child’s best time, whether it’s early morning, later afternoon, or anywhere in between. Take your time getting to the office, so your child doesn’t feel rushed or anxious. If your child still takes regular naps, try to plan around them so they won’t be tired or cranky before arriving at our office.

Pick the right pediatric dental office for your child’s needs

One of the best ways to ensure a positive dental experience for your child is to ensure you have a positive experience, too. To that end, it’s important to choose a dental office and provider that you’re comfortable with. When selecting the right pediatric dentist for your child, look for a practice that features the following.

  • A convenient location near your home, school, or work, so getting to and from visits will be a short and easy trip
  • Flexible appointments that fit your lifestyle and keep your stress levels way down
  • Caring and compassionate providers that have experience treating children of all ages with the highest level of care
  • Kid-friendly facilities that aren’t sterile and scary, but instead provide a welcoming, fun, and relaxing atmosphere!
Dentist at Children's Dental center giving a high five to a child patient

Trust your child’s smile to the experts at Children’s Dental Center

Here at Children’s Dental Center, we’re committed to ensuring children feel comfortable, safe, and at ease with all of our staff. We have both open bays and private treatment rooms available to meet your child’s specific needs. We also feature kid-friendly movies on overhead televisions, coloring pages, and have video games available for our young patients to enjoy. To keep your child’s dental visit interactive, we encourage them to explore (where it’s safe to do so) and we will always keep the lines of communication open with both you and your child for a rewarding dental visit all around!

If your child is due for a dental visit, our dedicated pediatric dental office is an excellent option. Our talented team is well-versed in treating infants, children, and adolescents, and we take pride in educating patients on the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene for a happy, healthy smile. If you’re in Memphis or the Mid-South area, and want a positive dental experience for your child, get in touch with us today! We’ll walk you both through the process with patience, respect, and a gentle hand.