I had the opportunity to shadow all kinds of dentists and the specialty that caught my interest was pediatric dentistry. In this field dentists focus on oral health of children from babies through teenage years. The patients are unpredictable , some cooperate while others have no problem letting everyone know they are terrified of dentists.
Could it be from the bright lights? The weird looking dental instruments? Or the fact dentists are working in their personal space? I agree the dental office can be intimidating and the thought of someone handling vulnerable areas in the mouth is enough to run away . However there are some tips that may help children on their next dental visit.
According to NCPediatricDentistry, they recommend that you talk about dentists positively. Create a good experience by sharing stories related to dentists. If you could only think of that one bad experience you had share other people stories. Reward them for being brave. One of the things I enjoyed from my dental visits was the toy treasure chest. If I was good during my appointment (which was all the time lol) the dentist allowed me to pick one toy from the chest, very encouraging! I went to one office to shadow and they rewarded children by giving them a gold coin to use for their toy/ gumball machine.
Explain that the dentist is a friend. I could tell the difference between the child that received ‘pep talk’ before their dental appointment vs the one that cry hysterically as their parents talk to them at the moment. I think it helps children and dentists when the parents already explain the details of the dental appointment. Playing ‘pretend doctor’ could help lessen anxiety and reading children books about dentistry is a plus!
Take your child to meet the dentist first. As they visit the dentist consistently they’ll hopefully start to recognize them as a friend and become comfortable during their actual appointment. I enjoyed watching fear disappear from children faces when hygienists allow them to hold some of the dental instruments to let them know there’s nothing to be scared of . When there’s a lot of interaction and communication between the patient and dental staff it makes a big difference.
Select sedation for children. Now for this I wish there was an alternative. Through shadowing I’ve watched and helped dentists keep children seated so they could sedate them properly and it was NOT EASY! I also understand this is necessary for most of their procedures. One thing I enjoyed was how some dental offices kept children preoccupied with iPads and TV as they administered medicine.
There’s so much to learn from the world of dentistry and fear is not one of them. So let’s start painting better pictures for our children and dentists!