Tell Show Do: A Miracle Technique For Your Child’s Dental Anxiety!

Children are natural explorers. They look and listen to what’s happening around them, touch what they can reach, smell the waft of scents, and occasionally if given the permission, taste things they are fascinated with. To a child, everything is new. With new and exciting senses to uncover, there are also some experiences that may not be as fun to explore. Going to the dentist can be one of them.

Dental visits, especially the first visit, can easily evoke strong fear reactions in children. In fact, surveys indicate that between 5 to 6 percent of the population and 16 percent of school-age children have a fear of dentists! This could be attributed to changes such as being separated from their parents or the unnerving and often daunting fear of the unknown. Regardless, anxiety and distress are some of the most basic reasons for avoidance of dental care.

Kids plagued with fear can often be unwilling to accept the treatment provided by the dentist, which can further impact their oral health. That being said, if you are desperate for your kids to cooperate with dental visits, a technique called “Tell Show Do” can help manage fears and acute behaviors, and yes, allow fuss-less visits!

What is Tell Show Do?

Parents play an integral role in helping their children adopt good oral habits. But sometimes kids can be so belligerent and unforgiving that parents raise the white flag and surrender to their whims. This can prove to be devastating for your child’s oral health. When all else fails and you are in the dental office with a hysterical baby in the chair, the Tell Show Do technique can be your savior.


First, the dentist will TELL the young patient about the procedure using a calm voice, explaining the steps in words they can understand. This means that “plaque” becomes “sugar bugs”, “needle” or “shot” becomes “sleep juice”, “dental drill” becomes “whistle brush”, and so on and forth. You get the idea.

How can you use this at home?

Explain how to brush and floss properly. This includes giving a rundown on how much toothpaste to use and for how long to brush. Now, remind your child to brush twice a day and floss every evening. Make your child understand the importance of oral care in words they can comprehend.


After the dentist has fully explained the in’s and out’s of the procedure, they will now SHOW or demonstrate what happens next. The child will be allowed to touch or handle the equipment so that they can feel more in control of what’s going to be done to them.

How can you use this at home?

Let your child watch as you brush and floss your own teeth. Children are very attentive and impressionable so make sure you take full advantage of it. Let them observe you and answer any questions they have. You can demonstrate brushing on your teeth to give them a better view.


When the young patient is finally ready to accept the treatment, the dentist will DO the exam or treatment procedure on them.

How can you use this at home?

Now that your child has observed and learned the aspects of brushing and flossing, help them brush their teeth. Stand behind them or sit them on their lap to help them brush their teeth. Do this as a regular routine so that they know that it is not optional. You should continue to help them brush and floss until they are about 8 years of age after which you should simply supervise and monitor them.

Why does the Tell Show Do Technique work?

According to the Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice, Tell Show Do technique can be viewed as a rapid form of desensitization. Anxiety or any stray qualms are reduced by gradual acclimatization to the object (in this case, the dentist or any dental habits) that causes fear.

This technique puts your child into the driving seat and hands the controls over to them. Prior to any new step, their dentist will ask their permission and if they insist on stopping, their dentist would comply until they are confident enough to go further.

This simple yet widely effective trick can save you the tumult and hysteria that would otherwise be erupting from your child. By using the Tell Show Do technique, you can keep their child-like wonder intact and their smiles as bright as ever. Just tell, show, and do what you would like them to accomplish.