The attitude a child has about going to the dentist often carries into adulthood, so when children “hate” going, it’s important to find out why. Is it specific to the dentist that you have chosen, or is it going in general? Was there a bad experience in the past?
How to Combat Dental Fear in Kids
Talk to your child two weeks before his dental appointment and review what will be done at that visit, where you will be going, and who the child will see. This will allow him to mentally prepare for the appointment and ask questions. See if he will tell you why he doesn’t like to go, and see if you can address his concerns.
Pick an age-appropriate book about going to the dentist and include it in his bedtime stories. Hearing about someone else’s experience at a dental office might help. Keep things positive; never use words like “hurt,” “needle,” or “drill,” even to describe what won’t be involved.
Choosing the Right Dentist
Finding the “right” pediatric dentist for your familyis important. Choose one who will allow your child to have a positive experience at each visit andtreat all family members – children included -- with dignity and respect. Encouraging words and clear communication from the staff to you and your child are key.
Does it matter to your child if he sees a man or a woman? Is he scared of anything that could be explained or avoided? Children can have many irrational fears – like being intimidated by someone with glasses or facial hair. Talk to your child and see if you can find a dentist together who will be best suited to his unique needs.
Look to see – does the dentist talk directly to your child (and not just to you)? Does he get on eye-level with your kiddo? Does he speak to him in a kind, patient way? The answer should be a resounding “yes” to all of the above.
Clean, convenient locations with play areas that will keep your child busy while waiting,and financing options that work for your family are also important.Most families also prefer a practice where everyone in their family can conveniently be seen in the same location.
Importance of a Positive Experience
One bad experience at the dental office can sometimes scar a child for life. Adult patients who admit to horrible anxiety before appointments often point back to a bad experience as a child...stories like they were forced to continue during an appointment where pain was not properly managed; or held down with their mouth open for fillings; or given fast, painful injections, etc. The common thread here is that they felt helpless. A good pediatric dentist will know how to help your child feel a sense of control.
When It’s Time to Choose a New Dentist
If you or your child are unable to have your questions answered or don’t feel like you are being treated with respect, it’s time to move on.
When you or your child arebeing pressured to do more than you’re comfortable with at each visit, that’s not okay either.
Choosewisely, but don’t be afraid to switch your pediatric dentist if and whenthe need arises.
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