Preparing Your Child for Dental Treatment

Proper preparation begins early in a child’s life

Your child’s introduction to the dentist can be accomplished by:

  • Having him/her observe a family member having a professional cleaning and exam
  • Reading books to him/her about the experience. Books that are popular among parents are “Peppa Pig Dentist Trip” by Scholastic, “Leila's First Visit to the Dentist” by Humairah Shah, “Curious George Visits the Dentist” by H.A. Rey, “Going to the Dentist (First Experience Sticker Storybook)" by Parragon Books, “Show Me Your Smile! A visit to the Dentist (Dora the Explorer)” by Christine Ricci, “The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist” by Stan Berenstain.
  • Playing dentist with the toddler. If necessary, lay the child in your lap to see his/her teeth better. Switch roles and let him/her “count” your teeth.

If you would like to organize a small children’s group of six or fewer for a “Visit the Dentist Day,” Santa Teresa Dental offers a fun one-hour educational tour for children.

The “Visit the Dentist Day” includes

  • dental story reading time
  • nutritional discussion (good vs. bad food)
  • cavity formation (marshmallow challenge)
  • proper oral hygiene (Kirby the monkey teaching brushing and flossing), and
  • pretend-I-am-a dentist

During the pretend-I-am-a-dentist portion, children will wear a mask, gloves and play with different dental instruments.

More Tips

On the day the child has an appointment there are several important things to do:

  • Be low key. Over-emphasis on the visit might make the child suspicious.
  • Allow plenty of time to get to the appointment. Rushing may make the child anxious.
  • Schedule the appointment early in the day when the toddler isn’t tired or hungry and therefore, possibly grouchy. If s/he needs an injection the “numbness” will be worn off by the time s/he’s ready to eat again.
  • Don’t use negative words or expressions like, “Stick you with a needle,” or “It isn’t going to hurt.” Usually, the first visit doesn’t involve uncomfortable procedures.
  • Use positive expressions like, “Shine your teeth,” “Get a toothbrush,” “Ride in the chair and take pictures,” and “Have fun.”
  • Answer honestly any questions the child might have but don’t go into great detail and inadvertently say something that could alarm him/her.
  • Suggest that the child bring his favorite stuffed animal to meet the dentist. He will feel he is sharing the experience with a friend and be more secure.

Parents should avoid negative words and concerned or sour faces. A child who observes a parent wincing at the sight of a dental instrument learns that there’s something to fear. Also, saying, “Sit still Johnny, the dentist is not going to hurt you,” is no help to the child.

The parent’s presence in the exam room should be that of a cheerful spectator who provides positive comments and occasional assurance if the youngster needs it.

Remember that neither the parent nor the child is in charge of the situation, the dentist is.

Dr. Ann will explain everything carefully and slowly in an imaginative way. Children are generally fascinated by dental equipment and procedures and they like attention. It is for these reasons that most youngsters actually love going to the dentist.

When the child is comfortable with his/her dental visits, parents are invited to relax in a separate waiting area adjacent to your child’s treatment room.

By giving your child alone time with Dr. Ann, it establishes trust and gives him/her some time to bond.

Using incentives can be extremely effective if used properly. Our office offers a toy from the “treasure chest” as an incentive for children to be good “helpers.” It can be mentioned casually to the child. However, suggesting a trip to the toy store as a reward after the first visit will probably arouse suspicion in the toddler’s mind.

As treatment progresses and the child knows and trusts the dentist, a trip to the toy store might be a reward for cooperating during a difficult procedure.

It is important to remember, however, that the goal is to encourage the child, not punish him or her. Withdrawing regular activities as punishment for uncooperative behavior is more likely to cause the child to have a negative attitude toward dental visits in the future.

In order to improve the chances of your child having a positive experience in our office, we are selective in our use of words. We try to avoid words that scare the child due to previous experiences.

Please support us by NOT USING negative words that are often used for dental care. These include:

We use and Recommend
Needle Or Shot Sleepy Juice
Drill Whistle
Drill On Tooth Clean A Tooth
Pull Or Yank Tooth Wiggle A Tooth Out
Decay, Cavity Sugar Bug
Examination Count Teeth
Tooth Cleaning Tickle Teeth
Explorer Toothpick
Rubber Dam Raincoat
Make An Incision Make An Opening
Nitrous Oxide Sedation Astronaut Gas

This will also help you understand your child’s description of the dental experience. Our intention is to create an experience that is positive.

We appreciate your assistance in helping us build a good dental attitude for your child!