Glossary of Kid-Friendly Dental Terms


Dental anxieties often develop in children after negative experiences or are inherited from equally anxious parents. At The Tooth Station, our goal is to make all patients feel as comfortable and safe as possible, which is why we take extra caution in describing dental care to our youngest visitors.

Toddlers and children visiting our office might hear us use any of the terms below. These are also important for parents to understand and use at home when talking to their child about the dental office.

Sleepy Juice or Magic Juice instead of Anesthetic Injection

At the dental office, local anesthesia is used specifically at the treatment site to ensure patients are comfortable, but parents should avoid using terms like “shot” or “injection” when discussing anesthesia with children. Try using “magic juice” or “sleepy juice” and compare it to the way a hand or foot can sometimes fall asleep; you may not be able to feel your hand or foot for a short moment, but the feeling eventually goes away. The same can be said for the anesthetic dentist uses; your child won’t be able to feel the treatment, but this effect wears off and their smile is magically strong and healthy again.

Whistle instead of Drill

A dental drill creates an access point in a tooth, particularly in an area where decay has occurred. After this, a crown or filling is usually placed. But “drill” can be too aggressive and may not encourage a child’s feeling of safety and security at a dental office. Instead, we describe this tool by the sound it makes, which is a whistle. When talking to your child, you can compare it to other whistles, like that of a train or party favor. When the dentist is using this whistle, tell your child to close their eyes and think of other things that make the same noise so you can compare lists after the appointment.

Sugar Spots instead of Cavities or Decay

Getting the news that you’ve developed a cavity isn’t fun for anyone, but for a child, it can be particularly confusing. Adults have some understanding of what cavities are and what causes them, but describing this in detail can be alarming for children.  Because cavities are caused by the accumulation of acid-producing sugars, we refer to them as sugar spots. This gives kids a good idea of how the spot developed and what caused it, without sounding intimidating and clinical.

If you need help talking to your child about dental care, we encourage you to schedule an appointment at The Tooth Station. We take an educational and gentle approach to dentistry, helping parents support their child’s health as well.