What Not to Say


We all try our best to help our children navigate their ways through this new and unfamiliar world. For a child, the world is full of firsts. In our office, there are first dental cleanings, first exams, first x-rays, and sometimes, a first cavity. As we guide our kids through these experiences, there are a few common comments parents make-with the best intentions-that often backfire on them and us.

Jeffrey Gallers’s article “A Guide for Parents: What Not to Say When I’m Treating Your Child” is an awesome what not to do piece. The following are snippets he recommends NOT to say to your children before, during, or after an appointment:

  1. “Don’t worry he’s not going to do anything today.”
    This statement implies that even if we do “nothing” today, but at one point we have to do “something,” it will surely be terrible.
  2. “Don’t worry, I won’t let him hurt you.”
    This is not a helpful statement. We know you love your child and would never let anyone intentionally hurt them. We never want to hurt them either. A much more effective message is one that emphasizes the patient and dentist are partners who work together so the procedure will be quick and easy.
  3. “Have you ever done a procedure like this before?”
    This one makes Galler (and us) laugh! He jokingly responds to this question, “No, I never have,but did a review of it in the dental chapter last night.” This is all we do all day, every day, guys.
  4. “Are you giving him a shot?”
    If we tell your child we are going to give them sleepy juice or a water spray, we are choosing those words very carefully. We realize the spoken word has a very powerful effect and we try to convey to a child as honestly as possible what we will be doing to them without intimidating or scaring them. When we use those words like ‘wiggle’ instead of extract or ‘Mr. Bumpy’ instead of drill, try to go with it.
  5. “I told you not to eat candy! It’s your fault this is going to hurt!”
    This comment is double trouble. First of all, most five year olds don’t have the means to go buy candy on their own. As parents, we must take some accountability for their diets. Secondly, insisting a procedure is going to be uncomfortable will only scare your child. This type of comment won’t help anyone!

These are just a few examples of common remarks we hear chair side. Our number one job in the world is to protect and take care of our kids!!! That being said, sometimes we must take a step back and realize some of these comments may not be as helpful as we think!