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It’s perfectly natural for children to be afraid of the dentist, but it doesn’t mean the parents can’t help them overcome this fear.
In order to take steps towards helping their children, it’s important to understand where the fear comes from in the first place. Most of these fears are, unknowingly, fueled by parents or other family members who may have been frightened as children before Novocain, the numbing medication dentists and oral surgeons use today, was widely used.
Children may overhear their parents and grandparents discussing and comparing dental “horror” stories. These may include stories of pain, swelling, extractions, and infections that were far from comfortable procedures in times past. Although some people do have severe dental problems crop up, most do not. So how can you help your children overcome a fear of the dentist? Here are some ideas:
Be an Example
Use good dental hygiene yourself, if you don’t already. Children benefit from a good example. When they see you routinely brushing and flossing in the morning and at bedtime, acting as a good role model, they too will brush and floss as part of their daily routine.
Start brushing your children’s teeth as soon as they appear with a lukewarm clean washcloth. This helps your child get accustomed to the general concept of teeth cleaning and oral hygiene.
Find the Right Dentist
Another reason children, and adults, fear the dentist is that dental work is an invasion of the private space of our mouths. Since having a positive relationship with a dentist involves trust, take the time to find a dentist who is patient and understanding. He or she doesn’t need to be a pediatric dentist
specialist, just someone who has experience and a good manner with children. A bright, cheerful office and welcoming, kind staff are two additional components of a successful dental start for your children. If your child already has a fear of the dentist, make sure you inform your new dentist about your child’s fear before the appointment, so the staff can accommodate your child’s needs and allay the fears. A good dentist and staff take time to explain exactly what will happen and why, and will answer any questions.
Again, Be an Example
Another way to help your children overcome a fear of the dentist is to let them see that you are not afraid. If acceptable, invite your child to accompany you to your cleaning or checkup appointment so that the notion of a dental checkup is not so foreign. In addition, be certain not to use phrases like, “I hate the dentist” or “Dad hates going to the dentist.” Even if you have some anxiety about an upcoming visit, which is not uncommon, don’t let your child know. Also, since children are very perceptive, don’t keep mentioning an upcoming dental visit because you are anxious. If you keep bringing up the subject, they will wonder why you do. You wouldn’t keep talking about how you need to stop for gasoline, buy groceries, or do another routine task, so why dwell on an upcoming dental appointment?
When it’s time for your child’s dental appointment, do not let them know too far in advance. If they tend to be anxious, the less advance time they have to think about it, the better. Do let them know a day or so in advance, so it is not a total surprise, however. They may want to discuss any concerns with you or their peers. Also discussing with other parents about how to help your child overcome a fear of the dentist may be quite helpful as well.
Use Positive Reinforcements
Many dentists who treat children often have a reward system. They may offer a small toy, trinket, or sticker after a successful and stress-free visit. Positive reinforcement such as this can’t hurt and will give the child something to look forward to when the visit is over. Just as a reminder, don’t reward children with candy or sweets as that goes against the purpose of the dental visit.
Another way to help your children overcome a fear of the dentist is to be perfectly honest. Fortunately, few children whose parents regularly enforce good dental care need dental procedures beyond checkups. However, should your children require an invasive dental procedure, be honest with them. If they are going to get Novocain for pain, tell them that the injection, although it numbs the gums briefly, may be painful. Let them know it may hurt for a second and then be over and that the drug prevents any further pain. Let children also know that the dentist doesn’t want to hurt them and will continually ask if they feel any pain and stop if they do.
Contact Family Care Dental Clinic for your consultation today!
We at Family Care Dental Clinic offer our clients a wide range of comprehensive dental services for the whole family. Our dentists can help everyone in your family understand the importance of proper oral hygiene over time and the positive effects it has on your health. At Family Care Dental Clinic, we treat our clients to a soothing environment where they can receive quality dental care no matter what their needs are. Call (604) 987-3545 or please visit our appointment page to schedule an appointment with a member of our excellent team.
Written by Dr. Dr. Joseph Zelig, D.D.S.