3 Tips to Help Children Feel More Comfortable in the Dentist Chair

Many children are afraid of the dentist. It can be scary opening up your mouth to let someone poke around in there, especially since you can’t see what is going on. Add in scary noises and not understanding everything that is being done and why, and you can easily understand how the brain would perceive this as a dangerous situation. 

Dental anxiety in children may not even be from their own personal negative experience in the dentist’s chair. They may have a friend who described having a cavity drilled and filled. Hearing about this could cause fear of visiting the dentist to develop.

As a dental professional, however, you understand just how crucial it is for children to regularly see their dentist and develop good oral hygiene habits. Regular visits can help find and treat small problems before they become big issues, and good habits carry on into adulthood. 

For parents, the natural instinct is to protect their child from both real and perceived dangers. With everything going on in life, it can seem like skipping a dental appointment for the mental health of both parent and child may be okay, but skipping appointments does little to ease a child’s fear of going to the dentist for a checkup.

Let’s talk about how you can help make your pediatric dental patients feel safe and more comfortable. 


1 | Make the Wait and Appointment More Relaxing

Jitters can begin before entering the exam room. Making a child wait in a boring lobby can increase their anxiety. Have a child-friendly waiting room, with toys or books for kids to occupy themselves before their appointment begins. During the appointment, you can make the exam more relaxing by playing relaxing music or by offering to play the child’s favorite type of music.


2 | Take Extra Time at First Appointments

You may need to schedule longer appointment times for a first visit. This will give you time to chat with the patient before you go poking around in their mouth. This is a good time to break the ice and show a child that you aren’t scary and that the dentist office can be a positive experience. You’ll also want to explain what dentists do and what you’ll be doing inside their mouth. Knowing what is coming can help ease some fear.


3 | Empower Your Patient

Being in the dentist chair can make people feel like they have no power. Empower patients and give them some sense of control by telling them that it’s okay to let you know if something is uncomfortable or if they just need a minute. Since it’s hard to communicate verbally, decide together on a hand sign before the examination starts, so that the child can make that sign if they need you to stop for a minute. Another way to empower kids is to give them a handheld mirror that they can hold up and look into during their exam. This will allow them to see what is going on and see that it’s not so scary. It might even be interesting for them to learn more, especially if you talk to them and point things out for them to look at as you examine their teeth.


Key Takeaway – Setting a Child Up for a Lifetime of Good Oral Health

Taking the extra time to help a pediatric patient relax and feel at ease before and during a dental appointment can help make the experience much more positive. When a child has a better experience at the dentist, they are much more likely to follow through with good oral hygiene habits at home, resulting in a lifetime of better oral health!

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