5 tips to help your toddler overcome a fear of dentists

Posted on September 17th, 2018

A trip to the dentist is hardly anything to get excited about, but did you know that it’s possible to get your little one feeling enthusiastic about his next visit? Here’s how… By Thobeka Phanyeko

5 tips to help your toddler overcome a fear of dentists

Paediatric dentist Dr Geoff Melman says it’s important to always use positive language as you don’t want your child to be fearful. Never lie to your little one, but avoid terminology he can’t understand.  A word like extraction sounds daunting even though your tot won’t know what it means. Dr Melman advises parents to only reinforce what the dentist is saying”, because once the trust is broken, it can’t be repaired.

ALSO SEE: What to expect at your toddler’s first dental visit

Dr Melman shares some of his favourite phrases …

The dentist will count your teeth

When your little one is due for his first visit to the dentist, he can expect his teeth to be counted.
Dr Melman notes that because toddlers have a short concentration span, 20 minutes is all dentists have and he cautions against doing an active treatment on the first visit.

The dentist will take a photo of your teeth

Get your little one excited about having X-rays done. Toddlers love pictures, so getting him to sit still for a few minutes won’t be too difficult.

The dentist will check how many germs are on your teeth

This is the best way to prepare your tot when he’s due for a cleaning. Dr Melman says he usually plays along and tickles the little one’s mouth while drilling to remove tooth decay. The trust between the child, the parent and the dentist grows when everyone is on board.

ALSO SEE: 10 things your child’s dentist wants you to know

The dentist will draw your favourite character on your teeth

Should your tot need a filling, the best way to prepare him would be to get him to tell the dentist which character he would love to have drawn on his teeth. Getting your little one involved keeps him distracted.

Use the reward system

Make this part of the experience and your little one will always remember what comes after a brief session in the dentist’s chair. Dr Melman advises against rewarding your tot with sweets, but do consider toys or books instead.