How to Introduce Young Children to the Dentist

Posted on: 8 May 2015


A fear of visiting the dentist is common in children. This is unsurprising, since many adults feel the same way! However, while an adult knows it is a necessity and can grin and bear it, a reluctant child can turn a trip to the dentist into a nightmare of tantrums and refusals. To prevent your child becoming a dentist-dreading terror, try some of these techniques for making your dentist a friend not a foe.

Start young

Your child's first visit to a dentist should take place at around 12 months of age, or shortly after the first milk tooth appears. Regular visits from this point on should ensure that familiarity breeds comfort in the dentist's clinic.

Set an example

Even if your child does not have a check up due themselves, take them with you when you go to the dentist yourself. Seeing you relaxed in the dentist's chair will strengthen the message that there is nothing to fear.

Bring the dentist home

Read books at home about trips to the dentist and play 'going to the dentist' games. Any lingering doubts about seeing the dentist can be discovered and allayed through such role playing. Talk about your own experiences in childhood of dental treatments and emphasise how glad you are to have healthy teeth now.

School visits

Ask your child's school about arranging a visit from a dentist to chat to the children. Maybe a parent is a dentist or a local practitioner would be happy to oblige. Meeting a real dentist on their own territory, especially one who brings stickers and colouring sheets for all the kids, can make them seem less of a bogeyman.

Use positive language

When talking about the dentist's work, phrase it positively and talk about healthy teeth, tooth cleaning, growing strong calcium. Avoid using scary words like drills, needles and cavities.


A good paediatric dentist will understand about the need for bribes and your child should leave their clinic armed with free toothbrushes, stickers and toothpaste samples. If you feel you need to reinforce the reward with a treat from yourself, just remember to make it non-edible if your child has to wait half an hour before eating.

The attitude towards dentists that you encourage in your child is something they will carry with them into adulthood. Making the effort from the beginning will see them enjoy a healthy relationship with their dentist and enjoy healthy teeth for many years.