A Child’s First Visit to The Dentist: Making Them Comfortable

Some dentists find children easier to treat than adults, but for those who do not, there are some techniques that can be applied to ensure that every child’s visit is successful. Of course, a healthy relationship with a dentist can influence a child’s perception of oral care, and his or her likelihood to return to the dentist for regular check-ups. We’ve chatted with a few dental specialists to learn their tricks of the trade and share them with you…

Mind Your Language

When dealing with kids it is important to use language that is positive and age-appropriate.  Examples of terminology that have negative connotations and should be avoided include “drill” and “shot.”

It is also important to speak respectfully and to explain each procedure thoroughly. When you speak truthfully to children, they learn to trust you as a practitioner. Also, when you explain everything fully, it is less likely that the child will be surprised or anxious.

Ask for the child’s cooperation and help during the appointment. Explain what you would like the child to do as you work, and explain that this is an important role so you can help him or her effectively.

Give The Child Your Full Attention

Children like one-on-one attention, and they like to feel important. By being fully present and focused during the procedure, you build a foundation for respect. It doesn’t hurt to have a joke or two up your sleeve to break the ice and help the child feel at ease.

Limit The Appointment Time

Remember that most children do not enjoy sitting still in a chair for long periods of time. Be mindful of the clock, especially when children have not been sedated.

Use Sedation

Everyone has a different threshold for pain tolerance and it can be difficult to anticipate which procedures will be found painful or uncomfortable. Anesthetics can reduce pain and may influence the child’s visit in a positive light.

Keep It Positive

Let the child know that everything is going well, or as planned, while you work. Give the child some praise for following instructions and being cooperative. Give detailed feedback, and explain how sitting still can ensure you work faster, or how keeping their mouth open allows you to get right to the back of the mouth.

Know What to Say to The Parents

Successful dental treatment for children is a collaborative effort that requires the child, dental practitioner, and parents to work together as a team. Develop a comfortable rapport with the parents, whereby you can explain your treatment philosophies and listen to the concerns of the parents.

Draw the parents’ attention to the negatively loaded words you have avoided during your appointment, and ask them to do the same. After the first appointment, you can step in and mentally prepare the child for the next visit, telling him or her how helpful he or she was, and how much you’re looking forward to next time.


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