Going to the dentist on a regular basis is essential to maintain healthy teeth and a beautiful smile. However, children that are unfamiliar with the dentist are often afraid to go. Having to lay in a chair with a stranger poking cold, metal instruments in their mouth can easily make for a scary experience. Be sure to try the following strategies to help keep your child calm before the dentist:

1. Start Your Kids Off Young

Starting your kids off young at the dentist will help to familiarize them with the concept. Moreover, this early start at the dentist will ensure that their dental health is being properly cared for. Children should generally have their first visit to the dentist when their first teeth start to come in. While the initial experience will take some getting used to, it will allow them to warm up to a lifetime of dental care at the dentist.

2. Keep Things Simple

Discussing the details of a dentist’s visit may be important to the parent, but it can be problematic for the child. When talking about an upcoming trip to the dentist, it’s best to keep things as simple as possible and avoid any details that may make the child hesitant or scared. Telling your child that they are having their teeth taken care of should likely be enough information to keep them informed, yet unafraid.

3. Have a Trial Visit

Before any dentist appointment, parents may want to have a pretend visit. Get a toothbrush, some floss, and anything else that will complete your dry run of a visit to the dentist. As the role play continues, explain why it is so important to take care of one’s teeth. Encourage your child to regularly brush and floss their own teeth to help them have a healthy smile.

4. Avoid Relating to Your Children

Parents that try to share their own experiences at the dentist with their children often end up scaring them even more. Many parents are anxious themselves about the dentist and can add to their children’s stress by bringing them along for an appointment or even telling them about their own dental “horror stories”. The best thing to do when describing a trip to the dentist is to talk about all the positive things children will experience. Tell your child how they will get to play games in the waiting room, learn more about their teeth, and meet friendly people that will help care for their smiles.

5. Watch Your Words

While adults have their own vocabulary for discussing the dentist, these words may scare children. Instead, parents should wait for the dental staff to introduce their own vocabulary to their children. Parents can simply tell kids that the dentist is there to check their teeth and clean their smile.

Children don’t have to be afraid of the dentist. Keep these five things in mind as you prepare your child for a visit to the dentist.