Department of Dentistry Preparing Your Child

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Preparing your childpreparing a child for the dentist, Boston Childrens Hospital

A visit to the dentist can cause anxiety and stress in children. To ease their fears we recommend the following:

  • Read books about the dentist with them.

  • Watch dental related videos.

  • Talk about the upcoming visit.

  • Be relaxed while discussing the visit with your child. Any anxiety or unease on your part will be sensed by your child.

  • Do not use words that might frighten them (drill, hurt, needle or pull.)

  • Avoid statements like "the doctor won't hurt you."

The following are possible descriptions that you can give your child as to what will happen at the dental visit:

  • We are going to see a doctor who counts teeth, the dentist.

  • When you get there the dentist's helper (dental assistant) will show you a special chair and a camera that takes pictures of your teeth.

  • Then the dentist will tickle your teeth and count them.

Preparing your child with special needs 

Special needs children visit dentistSome special needs children, such as children with autism, use visual cues on a regular basis. If this is the case, please use this technique to prepare the child for their dental visit.

It is helpful to bring the child's toothbrush and toothpaste to their first dental appointment. This allows our clinicians to start with a known object, which may decrease the child's anxiety.

If caregivers have some concerns resulting from past dental care, please ask to speak to the clinician. If you know who will be seeing your child, you can call a couple of days prior to the appointment to discuss your concerns with the dentist.


How our dental team calms anxious children

The best way to handle an anxious child is to build trust and confidence. The Department of Dentistry tries to do this through various methods. Many times our staff will explain to the child what is being done and will show them an example before performing a procedure.

For example, if a child is having a cleaning, the dentist will show them how they are going to "tickle" their teeth by first tickling their finger.

Another way that our staff builds trust and confidence is through praise. When children do something well, such as following directions while taking X-rays, we tell them what a great job they have done.

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