5 tips to help kids overcome fear of dentists


Start them early!
Start them early!

For child, going to the dentist can be a scary event. Lying on a chair in an unfamiliar room filled with unfamiliar noises, objects and smells, all while a stranger is poking cold, metallic and unknown objects in his month. But there is some good advice from the professionals to make the trips to the dentist easier for your child and yourself:


  1. “Let’s check your smile”

Avoid the ‘S’ (shot), ‘H’ (hurt) or ‘P’ (pain) words with children. Let the staff introduce their own vocabulary to children to help them get through difficult situations. When preparing your child for the visit, tell him/her that the dentist is going to check their smile and count their teeth. Use positive phrases like ‘clean, strong, healthy teeth’ to make the visit seem fun and good!

  1. Play Pretend

Before the first dentist appointment, play pretend with your child to be the dentist and the patient. Using a toothbrush, count your little one’s teeth by starting with the number 1 or the letter A. No drilling noises or lining up other ‘instruments’! Then let your child role-play by using a toothbrush to clean the teeth of a stuffed animal or their favorite doll. The key is getting them familiar with the routine so that they are more comfortable for the real visit.

  1. Start Young

The earlier a child visits the dentist, the better. This will provide your child with a ‘dental home’ where all dental needs – whether a periodic preventive visit or an emergency – will be taken care of. It’s best that the first visit starts at 6 months of age. This 6 month check is primarily for parental education, but also to see if there are any problems that should be addressed such as a possible yeast infection (trush).

  1. Choose a dentist spezialized in pediatric dentistry

Taking your child to a sterile, adult office gives the wrong impression, whereas most pediatric dentists make their offices kid-friendly. At River Rock Dental, we have video games, pleasing pictures on the walls, and movies or TV shows kids enjoy. We even have a waiting area especially for our young patients.

  1. Trust the experts

It is normal and age-appropriate for a young child to cry, whine, wiggle, and not want to be examined by a stranger. Stay calm and remember that dentists and staff are used to working with children and have seen their share of tantrums. Let the dental care professionals guide you; they might ask you to stay at a distance or to hold your little one’s hand, which will provide comfort and prevent him from grabbing any dental instruments.

Teach your child that visiting the dentist is a necessity, not a choice, and that the dentist will take care of his/her teeth so that they are strong enough for him to eat and he/she will have a beautiful smile for years to come. They will thank you for it for the rest of their lives.


  1. I was scared of the dentist when I was little, but my mom made sure to switch to a dentist that was great with kids. It made such a difference! He was funny, kind, and made me feel at ease. I know I’ll get a children’s dentist that has a great bedside manner when I have kids someday.

  2. I like that you say “lets check your smile” instead of checking their teeth. It sounds a lot nicer, and less intimidating. I almost wish they would use this for adults as well! We get just as anxious as kids do sometimes!

  3. I have a niece who is just getting teeth and playing pretend dentist sounds like a great way to get her on board with the idea! Making the dentist a routine trip and not a scary one will hopefully ease dentist anxiety. Finding the right pediatric dentist makes a huge difference! Thanks for sharing these tips.

  4. I agree with the “lets check your smile tip”. Lately I have seen a lot of dental offices change their promotion from “healthy teeth” to improving your smile. No one can resist smiling when you say you want to check their smile.

  5. Great trick to play pretend dentist before the first visit. That sounds like the perfect way to get your child used to the overall procedure and hopefully excited to visit the dentist! Thanks for sharing.

  6. My kids have a lovely fear of the dentist and that makes going even more difficult. They do a great job of taking care of their teeth but there is something about that chair that just freaks them out. I really like your idea about playing pretend with them because my kids have great imaginations. I think something like that would be really effective for them, thank you for the great idea!

  7. My kids have been terrified of going to the dentist for the last couple years and I have been looking for ways to help them get over that fear. I really like your tip about using a dentist who specializes in pediatrics. I think that will be my next step so my kids don’t become traumatized. Thank you for the post.

    1. I also think that a pediatric dentist or family dentist is a good idea. I think most of the time it is more the fact that your kids are being worked on by a stranger that scares them. My kids love our dentist now and it is easy.

  8. Hi River Rock Dental,

    Thank you for sharing this helpful information. Bringing the kids to the dentist is really a tough battle, because some of the kids really don’t like to go for a dental check-up.Hopefully with these tips and advice convincing them again wouldn’t be that tough anymore.


  9. Going to the dentist has always scared me. I’m tired of having anxiety before every dental visit so I’m trying to figure out what I can do to calm myself down. These tips seem awesome and I hope that I can use them to help me out the next time I go to the dentist.

  10. Our little kid has his first dentist appointment in a couple weeks. We can tell he is getting pretty nervous and a little scared by some of the comments he has made. I like the idea of playing pretend with him so he can get used to the idea and become a little more comfortable. I don’t blame him, I remember being scared of going to the dentist as a little kid. But I think this idea will help him out a bit. Thanks for the great tips.

  11. My son hates going to the dentist. He is just so scared to go, that whenever he has to go, he has a total fit about it. That being said, I really appreciate you giving me 5 ways I can help my son overcome his fear of going. I’ll make sure I do these things right away and hopefully they help him out.

  12. I agree with what you said about choosing a pediatric dentist. At first I took my four-year-old to a general dentist, and she struggled with it. Now that I take her to a pediatric dentist, she loves going.

  13. My kids aren’t really fans of going to our family dentist so I found your tips really helpful. I really liked what you said about playing pretend with your kids. That is one of my kids’ favorite thing to do anyways, so I am definitely going to have to try it. Thank you for sharing.

  14. I’ll have to remember your tip to play pretend to make sure that my son won’t be afraid of going to the dentist. I remember that I felt very nervous seeing all of those metal tools when I stepped into my first dental appointment when I was four or five years old. Playing games with my son where he would pretend to go to the dentist by using a toothbrush to count his teeth seems like a fun and interactive way to make him feel comfortable with his next visit. Thanks for the tips!

  15. I have two kids, and they’re getting to be around the age where we need to take them to the dentist. I really liked your tips to help them so that they don’t get scared of going there! I think that I’m going to try your idea of playing pretend with my kids. I think that it’ll be a great way for them to not be afraid of the dentist, and to know a little bit of what to expect the first time they go. Thanks for the great idea!

  16. My son is terrified of going to the dentist, and he has an appointment next week. I really want to help him overcome this fear, but I’m not sure how to. This being said, I really appreciate you sharing these 5 tips with me on things that I can do to help him feel better about going. I really hope these things help with this. Thanks a ton for the info.

    1. Bennett: We hope the appointment went ok with your little one. Never hesitate to contact us with any concerns and questions.

  17. I love these ideas. I was scared of the dentist when I was little, and now that I have my own children I want to make sure that I do everything that I can to help them have positive experiences when they go to their checkups. I’ll have to play dentist with my kids and I like how you kept it simple. I think it’s good to not bring up any scary things (like shots or drilling) because we don’t know if our kids will need those and why make them scared of something that might not happen for a long, long time?

    1. Exactly – and a good dental regiment will help them to not having to face those scary things. Thank you for reading our blog!

  18. I never realized that my child should visit the dentist at such an early age. I would have thought once he started growing teeth, but sooner could be better. I would want to make sure he feels comfortable going and having the dental instruments in his mouth. Hopefully, by starting off at an early age, he won’t be as fearful as I am.

    1. Cheryl – we completely understand your concerns. Our dentists are great with very young children and helping them to not see it as something scary but playful. Never hesitate to ask your dentist any questions and tell him/her your concerns!

  19. I really like the playing pretend tip. My three year old is very shy, and I think that would help her. She has a huge doll collection, so I’m sure it we’ll have a lot of patients to practice on. I just don’t want her to be scared, so thanks for the tips.

  20. Like many people, I also grew up afraid to go to the dentist. I don’t want my kids to end up the same way. Playing pretend dentist at home sounds like a great way to get them excited about their check-ups.

    1. We hear you Callie – luckily there has been a lot of advancements in dental care. Our dentists are great with children (and parents) and with helping making them comfortable.

  21. I have two little kids and they have the hardest time when it comes to brushing their teeth, let alone going to the dentist. In the past, I have taken them to just a normal dentist but a children’s dentist might be worth looking into like you suggest. I definitely think that they would know how to better handle kids that struggle with different fears. I think that these tips about helping my kids overcome fears of the dentist will really help us with our next visit and the overall health of their teeth.

    1. Hello! We are glad the post helped you a little bit. Definitely let your dentist know your concerns and ask for tips, ideas and recommendations. They are experts in pediatric dental care and want to help your children to achieve a life-long smile.

    2. Avery, I had trouble getting my kids to brush their teeth, too. When I started taking them to a pediatric dentist, though, that all changed! The dentist was able to help my kids understand why it’s important for them to take care of their teeth. Now they brush their teeth at least twice a day, if not more!

  22. Thank you for the help. My wife and I had our first daughter about three months ago. I have started wondering when we will need to take her to the dentist. I really like the idea to find a pediatric dentist when it is time. It seems like that would be a smoother transition for our daughter since that’s the age the doctor would specialize in. I will have to look for dentists in our area.

  23. My kids have a deathly fear of the dentist and no matter what my wife and I do, we can’t get them to see that there is nothing to be afraid of. Well, we are looking for different tactics to use to help them overcome this fear. This helped and I can’t wait to get home and show my wife.

  24. Starting young is a really good way to get them used to the dentist. Younger children are more impressionable. Plus, since dental hygiene starts at day 1, there is no reason to not bring them in for a check up every now and then.

  25. It’s interesting to read that helping the kids understand that trusting the dentist could be a good way of helping overcome fear. My son recently knocked a tooth loose, and on the way to the dentist he was really scared. I was surprised to see that he was more scared about vising the dentist than about his tooth. I’ll definitely have to talk to him about how dentists and doctors are there to help.

  26. I love the idea to play pretend with going to the dentist. My daughter gets pretty nervous about new situations even though she’s barely one. I think that playing dentist at home will get her excited about going to a real dentist!

  27. I really liked the idea you gave to play pretend before you go to the dentist with your child. I definitely agree that this will help them to get familiar with the routine and be comfortable for when the actual visit comes. Plus, it gives you a fun activity to do with your child; I’ll definitely try it out! Thanks for sharing!

  28. I love the play pretend idea!!! I think that will really calm by kid’s nerves. I don’t want to resort to bribing tricks just yet! I think going to the doctor is much scarier than going to the dentist! Thanks for posting!

  29. Thank you for the tips about helping your kids overcoming their anxiety when visiting the dentist. I think that playing “dentist” with them is a smart way to help them feel better about checkups. I will try this with my kids before our next dental appointment.

  30. Thanks for these awesome pointers! It is true to avoid certain words, I would probably add to that to avoid being negative about the dentist in general. I also think it is really important to choose a dentist that is good with kids. I remember my dentist was a kid was really good to us, and he always made us feel comfortable. Thanks for these tips!

  31. I liked your tip on playing pretend with your kids before the trip to the dentist! Having them play dentist with their stuffed animals would probably be helpful to calm my kids fear of the dentist I also liked your tip on finding a professional who specializes in pediatric care, I imagine that kind of atmosphere would be very calming!

  32. I like the tip about letting the staff use their vocabulary. I hate shots even as an adult, so I can only imagine how much my daughter hates them. I think I’ll try using those friendly terms at home when talking about the dentist. I hope it helps curb her fear.

  33. Getting a child used to dentists early is a really good idea! Dentists can be a little scary to a younger child if you don’t prepare them for the visit. Getting them used to the situation will help them calm down and be much more relaxed for their visit. Thanks for posting these great tips for dentist visits!

  34. I would agree that making your child feel comfortable at the dentist is a good idea. I like your tip about not using words like pain or shot at the dentist. Your idea about starting your children young going to the dentist, seems smart in creating a dental schedule.

  35. I have a two-year-old daughter that thinks brushing her teeth is the coolest thing! Although, she does have a major fear of the dentist. I think it’s because she had her first cavity the other day. Your idea about playing pretend dentist sounds like an idea I could try. I just want her to keep loving to brush her teeth and I don’t want to go to the dentist to take that away from her.

  36. I liked the playing pretend tip. Children learn a lot from play, and I think it’s one of the best ways they can relate to the real world, strange as it sounds. I also think choosing a pediatric dentist is good, I’ve been to one and they made the office look friendly and fun, which I thought was a great help. Thanks for all the tips!

  37. I liked some of your suggestions for making going to the dentist easier for my kids. I’ve been taking them for appointments ever since they were one years old, but taking them has become a bit difficult now that they’re older. I liked what you had to say about using positive phrases that are associated with the dentist. Saying things about how the go in for clean, strong, healthy teeth would make the dentist seem more friendly. I’ve been wondering about what to say to them when I need to take them in for an appointment, so next time I’ll try telling them that the dentist is going to check their smile and count their teeth. That could help make them feel better about check-ups, so I’ll try that for their next one that’s in a couple of weeks.

  38. Playing pretend with your child before going to their first dentists appointment would really help kids not be afraid. When I was working at a day care this summer we pretended going to the doctors office and the kids got really excited about it. I don’t know how they acted when they really went but I’m sure it was a lot easier. When I’m a parent I’m definitely going to try this in order to make sure my kids aren’t afraid of the dentist.

  39. Thanks for the tip about finding a dentist for normal visits, so that they can get used to them. I will have to see what are available and see if they are a good fit for my family. Hopefully there are a few options in the area, and they offer some good coverage.

  40. Number 4 in the list is my favorite tip on getting your kids used to the dentist. How much better can you get than a specialized person in that field. Yeah you could just have a nice dentist, but a pediatric dentist specializes in working with children and their teeth.

  41. I love the fact that there are dentists that specialize in pediatric dentistry. It would make kids a lot more comfortable if they went into an office catered to them and their needs. Family dentistry would be good as well because they know how to work with the younger kids as well. When I have kids I’m for sure going to help them not be afraid of dentists using this, thanks.

  42. This is some really great advice for any parent looking to help their child overcome a fear of the dentist, or prevent one entirely. I really liked your tip about avoiding words that sound scary, and letting the staff use proper words, as well as playing pretend and showing them that the procedure isn’t scary at all. I also had no idea that my children should visit the dentist so early, I’ll have to keep that in mind. Thanks so much for writing!

  43. Oh, my daughter’s fear of going to the dentist sure has my wife and I worried. We’re not sure what happened during her first dental checkup. My thought was that maybe she saw all the tools that the dentist has in the office while we were there and that could be what probably scared her.

  44. My brother in law and sister are out of town for a week and put my wife and I in charge of my niece. One thing that my wife and I need to do is take my niece to the dentist and let just say that she is not excited to go. We have trying to help her overcome her fear of the dentist, but we aren’t sure how to do it. This article offers some great points that I hope will help us help her see that the dentist is good and is only there to help her out.

  45. Thanks for the advice on how to introduce my kids to the idea for going to the dentist. I know that some children might think it is scary, but I want it to seem like fun. Playing pretend and using positive vocabulary are really good suggestions. I will be sure to give this a try.

  46. Taking kids to the dentist is necessary to keep their teeth healthy and promote excellent oral hygiene habits.Fear of the unknown is common among all of us, including children.A good dentist and parents can handle them.

  47. I agree that you need to avoid the words shot, hurt, and pain. My daughter knows that those are not good. I will also make sure to play pretend with her to show her that it isn’t scary.

  48. I like how you suggest to start young. This will help my kids be comfortable at the dentist as they grow up, and also shows them the importance of taking care of our teeth. How frequently would you suggest young children go to the dentist?

  49. You make a good point about how starting young can ensure that your child is more used to visiting and less scared of seeing the dentist. I didn’t realize that a child should have his or her first dental check-up when they are six months old. I appreciate that you mention it is for parental education. It seems like it would be important for parents to understand how to best take care of their child’s teeth.

  50. I think one of the most important tips here is to make sure you don’t use the words “shot”, “hurt”, or “pain” around children. They tend to kindle a lot of fear, especially when it comes to the dentist. It’s also a good idea to start them early, so they know there’s nothing to worry about. Thanks for sharing!

  51. I’m trying to find a dentist for my kids but was worried about them being afraid. I appreciate the advice about playing pretend with your kids so that they are familiar with the routine. I’ll make sure to do with my kids and hopefully, they’ll won’t be afraid to go.

  52. I like what you said about avoiding certain words with children. When I was little, I don’t think I heard those words at all. My aunt is a dental hygienist and she even would say that there isn’t a shot and that they make it not hurt. It definitely helped me to get over my fear.

  53. I like that you mention avoiding the S,H, and P words. I know of a few children that would have a hard time with hearing those words. I think it also shows how advanced or skilled the dentists are when they can adapt for the client.

  54. I just scheduled my son his first dentist visit and I am nervous how he will react. I really love all five tips, I especially like your comment about playing pretend dentist so he kind of knows what is going to happen and will have fun learning more about brushing teeth. I think it is important to start learning about dentist young that way they can grow up having strong healthy teeth. Thanks for all the helpful advice!

  55. Most children are afraid of dentist visits! Having someone dig around in their mouth with scary instruments can be bit terrifying. Starting young, like you mention, is a good idea. This allows the child to grow used to the dentist and the procedure. Maybe taking them with you to your visits can help them realize it is not as scary as they think. They see what is being done to you and that it is not harming you. Than, when it is their time to go to the dentist, they won’t have to be scared!

  56. when teeth start growing in early stages, it pain so much. This is the reason why most of children cry a lot when they were kid. To overcome the pain kids use to bit something continuously day and night.

    As a dentist I suggest my patients to use dental fun app for their kids to overcome the fear of dentists.

    overall article was great and thanks for sharing with us.

  57. These are some great tips, and I appreciate your advice to play pretend before your child’s first dental appointment. It’s about time for my son to have his first checkup, and I want to make sure he’s comfortable and has a good experience. I’ll definitely play pretend with him beforehand to get him comfortable with the idea of someone checking his teeth. Thanks for the great post!

  58. Thank you for the help. I am taking my daughter to the dentist for the first time soon and don’t want her to be afraid. I like the idea of playing pretend, as you suggested that. How long before the appointment would you start that?

  59. My teeth hate their mouths being touch. As you can imagine they don’t like going to the dentist. I want to work on getting their teeth checked without them having a meltdown. Playing pretend could be a good tactic. Maybe I will just trust the dentist.

  60. I love the idea to play pretend with your child like you’re the dentist and the patient to get them excited about going to the dentist! I’ve heard that many insurance agencies don’t cover pediatric dentists; is that true? I’ll definitely be passing your tips along to my brother and sister-in-law so their kids can look forward to going to the dentist!

  61. My son is turning 3 next month and we planning on setting up his first dental exam. I am really concerned that he will be too restless for the dentist to do his job. It was nice to read that it is normal for kids his age to cry, whine, and wiggle.

  62. Lots of great suggestions here. Playing pretend and also starting them young won’t trigger any fear points children commonly have when going to the dentist. Great article. Thank you.

  63. These are very useful tips to help kids with their first visits to the dentist. I hadn’t thought about playing pretend with them about the situation but I can see that it can be very useful and educational. I will make sure to do this before I take my kid to the dentist for the first time.

  64. You said that going to the dentist can be scary for children. When my youngest daughter was going to the dentist for the first time she was super nervous and really didn’t want to go. My wife eventually convinced her to get into the car so they could go and she came back so happy and decided that the dentist wasn’t actually scary at all.

  65. I really like your idea of pretending to be at the dentist before you actually go to the dentist. I can see why this would help your child know what to expect and realize it isn’t as frightening as it seems. Perhaps you could even show your child a picture of the dentist and tell them about him/her.

  66. I think this information could be applied to honestly any health or medical expert. My daughter hates going to the pediatrician for check-ups because of the shots. I think I will avoid the ‘s’ words and words like that to help her stay calm. Thanks again!

  67. I want to make sure my kids feel comfortable going to the dentist. Helping them understand the importance of maintaining healthy oral habits is essential to their overall health and wellbeing. Choosing a good dentist can definitely help make you kids feel comfortable, and as you said, perhaps even choosing someone that specializes in pediatric dentistry will be helpful since they have kid-friendly atmospheres.

  68. I am glad to know that gentle vocabulary is used in pediatric dental offices to calm children. It is good to know that these dentists do not use words like “shot” or “pain.” It would be a good idea to visit the office before committing to their service to ensure your child feels comfortable.

  69. I like how you should look for a pediatric dentist because they have a more fun office. It would make sense that your kids would probably be more at ease when they are in a waiting room with toys and other fun things. My sister is looking for a dentist for her kids so she’ll have to follow your advice and choose one that is specialized in pediatric care.

  70. I really like your tip to play pretend dentist with your child before their first dental appointment. That way they kind of get the feeling of what it will be like when they get to the dentist. My son likes to play pretend, so I think this idea is going to work very well with him.

  71. I remember an awesome dentist way back when I was a little kid. I was so scared at my first dental appointment with him but what he did to overcome that was he tried to do something more fun like he showed me a pile of lollipops and I will get to have those once I’m done. It is a pretty good trick but it actually works!

  72. I really like that idea of playing pretend. I’ll have to try that with my daughter. She gets scared easily, so getting her familiar with a routine sounds fun and quite helpful for preparing her for a dental checkup.

  73. Thank you so much for this information on how to make my kids not scared of the dentist. My daughter, Julia, thinks that the dentist is really scary because they wear scary masks while working on your teeth. Just like you mentioned, avoiding certain words or even wearing a less scary face mask could make all the difference. Thanks!

  74. Your advice to take your kids to a dentist starting at a young age is great. In my experience raising my children, I know that anything they are used to when they are little continues to be comfortable as they age. It was interesting to learn that the ideal age to start a visit was 6 months of age, though, but I’ll make sure to let my children know so they can let their grandchildren learn it as well.

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