Apologies to every kind and compassionate dentist out there, but some of us are a bit nervous about paying you a visit. Nothing personal.

And if going for a dental visit can be a little unnerving for some of us grown-ups, we can only imagine it can be a big deal for many children too.

Whether they like it or not, oral health for kids is important and there are some tried and true ways to make a trip to the dentist easier on little ones and their parents.

The folks at the Ottawa-based Family Dental Care say a lot comes down to what you do long before your child even gets to the dental office.

Maybe It’s You Not Them

If you have a tough time keeping your cool at your own dental appointments, it’s likely affecting how your child perceives the experience they’ll have when they go.

Don’t believe us? Researchers confirm “the emotional transmission of dentist fear among family members.” The study published in the International Journal of Pediatric Dentistry analyzed 183 children between the ages of seven and 12 years and their parents to dig into the links between fear levels amongst parents and children.

Sorry dads. The findings show children look most to fathers to determine how they should feel about the dentist.

"Although the results should be interpreted with due caution, children seem to mainly pay attention to the emotional reactions of the fathers when deciding if situations at the dentist are potentially stressful," states America Lara Sacido, one of the study’s authors.

Some solutions in the study include involving mothers and especially fathers in so-called ‘dentist fear prevention campaigns.’ By that they mean, having fathers go to the appointment and show no signs of fear or anxiety.

"With regard to assistance in the dental clinic, the work with parents is key. They should appear relaxed as a way of directly ensuring that the child is relaxed too," Lara Sacido suggests. "Through the positive emotional contagion route in the family, the right attitude can be achieved in the child so that attending the dentist is not a problem.”

What are Some Ways You Can Prepare Children for a Trip to the Dentist?

  • Some parents book a meet and greet where the dentist counts a kid’s teeth or gives them a quick brush and floss — an utterly painless experience easing them into a lifetime of oral healthcare without the stress.
  • Many opt for a pediatric dentist rather than a general one. It’s a personal choice. One advantage of visiting a dentist specifically trained to work with children is that, well, they are trained to work with children.
  • Some pediatric dentists recommend scheduling an appointment and touring the office in advance, something which “can go a long way in preparing your child for the dentist because it gets them familiar with the sights and the sounds.”
  • And while the key to success seems to lie in proper preparation, telling a child about an appointment too far in advance can often cause unnecessary anxiety, according to Innovative Pediatric Dentistry.
  • “Tell your child about their first dental visit on the same day as the appointment. When kids (or grown-ups) don’t know what to expect, sometimes the imagination can run wild and not in a good way,” Innovative Pediatric Dentistry warns “Letting them know about the visit the morning of the appointment is the best bet. Tell them the nice tooth doctor will be … showing them how to keep their smile strong and healthy.” They suggest some reading on the topic like Just Going to the Dentist or Elmo Visits the Dentist .

When Should You Take a Child for Their First Trip to the Dentist?

Most dentists recommend booking a child’s first dental visit before their first birthday.

Should I Stay with My Child When They Are Seeing the Dentist?

You can expect children to react differently when being left alone with the dentist depending on their age:

  • 10 to 24 months: Some securely attached children may get upset when taken from their parents for an exam.
  • Two to three years: A securely attached child may cope with a brief separation.
  • Three years: Kids this age may not have the maturity to be OK with being apart from a parent when having a dental procedure.
  • Four years:  By this age, most children should be able to be away from their parents for exams and treatment procedures.
  • Source — Stanford Children’s Health

It’s Worth it When You See That Smile!

If you’re preparing to take your child to the dentist, you know the value of oral hygiene. It’s almost all about prevention which comes with routine checkups and educating parents on how to guide their children to best care for their oral health at home.

“By focusing our time and effort on preventing dental problems, we can help your child develop strong teeth and gums to create a lifetime of healthy smiles,” according to Family Dental Care. “We firmly believe in starting children early with good dental hygiene and oral care. This is because early treatment helps to prevent problems affecting a child’s oral health and overall well-being.”

GMS offers a variety of dental coverage to choose from with our health insurance plans. Its a core benefit of our Replacement Health Plan so those coming from employer’s benefits keep their coverage uninterrupted. If our Personal Health plan is a better fit, dental coverage is available to add on to our BasicPlan, ExtendaPlan or OmniPlan at any time. Whichever GMS plan you choose dental benefits through, coverage includes cleanings, x-rays, fillings, polishing, dentures, bridges, crowns and more. Learn more today!

April is National Oral Health Month