Use Child-Friendly Language When Talking to Your Kids about the Dentist

Young girl lying on dental chair with dentist and dental assistant

An important part of being a parent is teaching your children about the world. They make it easy by often asking that big question—“Why?”—but as a parent, you should always be on the lookout for ways to teach your children, even when they aren’t asking why. One such opportunity to do so is when preparing them for a visit to the dentist.

Download “Everything You Need to Know about Finding a Pediatric Dentistry Practice for Your Child” e-Book

For children and adults alike, going to the dentist is often a big fear. When you’re a child and feel powerless, it can be even more terrifying. That’s why it’s important to consider the language you use when talking to your children about the dentist.

Your initial urge to teach them everything may actually work against you, as dentistry involves such tools as the “drill,” “pick,” and “needle.” As noted, this is often too much for adults, so why burden your children with overwhelming language and turn a routine dental visit into a scary experience?

Here are some examples of child-friendly language you can use when talking to your kids about the dentist.

Say Hello (and Goodbye!) to Sugar Bugs

The number-one procedure for 21st-century children visiting the dentist is dealing with plaque build-up and cavities. Sugar is in everything, so it’s very easy for plaque to buildup and cause cavities in your children’s teeth (no matter how careful you are with meals). This means it’s quite likely your kid will have to learn about plaque, bacteria, acids, and holes in their teeth.

Instead of getting technical, however, consider introducing them to “sugar bugs.” These are two simple words kids can easily wrap their brains around. The best part is you’re not lying to them; you’re just simplifying the language. One day, they’ll learn that bacteria are not bugs, but until then, you’ll have a happy child at the dentist.

No More Needles, Just a Sleepy Juice

It seems like every necessary tool in a dentist’s operations has some association with people’s deepest fears, such as needles. It’s bad enough getting jabbed in the arm, but the mouth

Still, freezing is a necessary part of many dental procedures—and that means using a needle. Some children will even need sedation.

Rather than use these terms, you can talk to your child about the “sleepy juice” the dentist will use to help them relax and maybe even fall asleep. “This helps the dentist get to your teeth and give them a good cleaning!” Be careful not to say, “…so you won’t feel any pain…” because this may make kids say—“Wait, there’s pain?”

Forget Extraction—It’s Time to Wiggle!

Wiggle is just a fun word. And if the dentist needs to remove one of your children’s teeth, it’s a much nicer word than the cold, clinical “extract.” You can even make up a dance that goes with it. Your child will have no time to worry about losing a tooth, he or she will be dancing so much. If it works for your child, let the dentist know, and when it comes time to yank that baby tooth out, the dentist can say, “It’s time for me to do the wiggle dance with your tooth!”

Language has power, and if you’re trying to calm your children about a visit to the dentist, effective language is key to having a positive experience. You know your children best and will know which words and ideas are most likely to upset them. Find some positive alternatives and you’ll find a scary trip to the dentist becomes an exciting journey.