I will never forget my first trip to the dentist. My mother had told me so many times not to be scared that when I finally got there I was terrified, and wet my pants while sitting in the waiting room. Once inside though, things were different – our family dentist was a friendly chap who made sure that I felt no pain.
What are the things that kids especially fear when a dentist appointment looms, and how best ought you to work through these?
• Rule No. 1 – Do not try to fool a kid. Kids are a whole lot sharper than we think. These days they watch television, and surf the internet as well as we do. So level with them – kids are also a lot tougher than we sometimes think.
• Be a good role model – When you are the littlest one, you stay out of trouble by learning with your eyes. Do not look scared when it is your dental turn. Take your child with you, and let them see what is involved. That way you capitalize on the instinct of a child to mimic what their parents do. Never be apprehensive on behalf of your child.
• Fear of pain – If your child has been hurt by a careless dentist in the past, then you have a problem that must be resolved before their next visit, (and hopefully to a different dentist too). You could explain that falling off a bike is no reason not to cycle, that it should not have happened, and that the new dentist will be different.
• Choosing the best dentist – There is not a single honest person that will not admit a sense of trepidation as they park their auto outside a dentist’s rooms. It is the welcome that you receive that makes the difference. Choose a competent dentist with a genuine love of children.
• Managing uncertainty – Adults, too get scared when they do not know what is going happen next. Take time to discuss things openly with your child, and work through their misgivings. Find out what are your particular child’s concerns. Did they watch a movie? Did their friends tell horror stories? All these things are real to them.
• Make it fun – A dentist’s couch and all their other apparatus can look scary too, so let your kid touch the equipment first. Consider sitting down, and letting the dentist clean your own teeth first. Another useful tip is holding a small child in your lap while a dentist goes about their business.
• Timing – Arrange a session as early as possible and not on a school day. It is better to visit a dentist on the weekend so that other children won’t taunt your child — making up stories about the dentist and creating unnecessary fears.
Like most things in life, a visit to a dentist can be horrible, or equally, pleasant, depending on the way that we approach things. Apply these principles to your kid, and make life fun.