How To Talk to Your Kids About the Dentist

At a local pediatrician’s office, there is a sign that says, “Talk to Your Kids About the Doctor.” The sign said that lying to your children about shots, pain, and what to expect from the doctor can hurt your relationship with your child.

Well, it got us thinking. Going to the dentist isn’t always the most exciting event for your children. So, we want to echo the message we read on the pediatrician’s wall and give you some advice for how to talk about the dentist with your kids.

  1. Always be honest. Don’t tell your child that it’s not going to hurt. Dentists do their very best to make patients (especially young ones) comfortable. But there is no way of guaranteeing a pain-free experience. Let’s say your child has a cavity. Even though we’ll numb up their mouth before working on the tooth, the initial shot of anesthetic does have a tiny sting. Lying to your child (even to help them feel better) is very rarely a good idea. It may work the first or even second time. But then what? Not only will your child have anxiety about the dentist, but they won’t trust you either.
  2. Prepare them. Let your child know what they can expect when they go to the dentist. Let them know that they will need to hold their mouths open – sometimes for several minutes. You can tell them it may not be pleasant. And to combat that reality by talking about your own experiences or making the idea of holding their mouth open a game. Kids are often up for a challenge…if they’re ready for what’s about to happen.
  3. Bribe them. You can make a trip to the dentist a positive experience – something your children are excited to do. One way to achieve that goal is by bribing your kids or turning the dentist into a tradition. Maybe after visiting the dentist, you can take your child to their favorite place to eat. Or, if they’ve had their mouth numbed up (and can’t eat anything without it spilling out the side of their mouth) you can take them to a park, shopping, or home to play video games until they feel better. When your children know there is a perk following the dentist they’ll be much more open to visiting the dentist.
  4. Distract them. Once you’ve had the discussion with your children about what to expect, move on to other topics. There is no need to remind your child that they have a dentist appointment coming up. Dwelling on it may cause them more anxiety. Once you’ve talked it through, talk about other things.

If you follow these tips, the trip to the dentist’s office should be easy going. And if you take your child to a caring dentist’s office, your child will get through the experience with flying colors and the next time around, things will be a whole lot smoother.