Typically, a child's fear of a dentist comes from others, parents talking negatively about dental appointments, procedures, or anything negative related to a dentist. First of READ MORE
Typically, a child's fear of a dentist comes from others, parents talking negatively about dental appointments, procedures, or anything negative related to a dentist. First of all, don't wait until your child has a problem before you take them to a dentist. Children should have their teeth cleaned and checked at least twice a year from at least 2 years of age. At that point, they don't typically have that fear and by the time they need any real dentistry they are comfortable being at the dental office and it isn't traumatic at all. If you wait until a child has a tooth ache before you take them to the dentist, they always relate the tooth pain with going to the dentist, when in reality it was the dentist that took the pain away. I have dealt with children of all ages and the thing that makes most situations worse is the parents and how they deal with their children. Coddling a child, when what the child really needs is a firm parent to support the need for dental care, makes everything worse. There is a reason that most dentists do not allow parents in the room while they are doing dental work. It is like having a babysitter take care of your child. When you get home, the sitter tells you how good your children were and your seem surprised. The kids don't know what they can get away with with the sitter and don't push too hard, while they know how to push your buttons and just how you will handle it. The same with the dentist. They typically behave fine, especially when the dentist talks to them and explains what he going to do. I talk to the kids and find out what they are afraid of and deal with their fears with facts. Even young children are mostly in fear of what they don't know, so teaching them helps a lot. There are just some children who will not behave and don't communicate why, that is why there are Pediatric Dentists, who have tricks and medication if necessary to deal with problem children. Some dentists are better at dealing with children than others, there is not a question about that. Talk to your friends and see who they go to and how their children deal with their appointments. We have televisions over every chair and sometimes putting a cartoon on while they are in the chair is magic. I have had parents bring children from many miles away to see me. One in particular was about 14 years old and sobbing and refusing to let me even look in her mouth. She had been to many different dentists who all just refused to see her and over the months her dental problem had become very serious. Mom was at her wits end and I explained to her that I wasn't going to baby her daughter and was probably going to be pretty firm with her, stressing the potential for life threatening issues without treatment, which was true. I told the young lady that her temper tantrums had only allowed her dental problems to get much worse and that I was not sure that her tooth could be saved at all, and if she didn't allow me to help her that she may end up in the hospital and have to be dealt with in the operating room. I shocked her, but in reality it was fact. She had refused care for so long that her tooth was horribly decayed and infected to the point that the bone around the tooth was being dissolved by the infection, and this was a permanent tooth. She finally opened up and quit crying. I explained everything that I was going to do, from the topical anesthetic to the injection, the hand piece cleaning out the tooth and I made her watch me during part of the root canal procedure. She did great. The next time she came in it was a totally different scenario. Now she comes in for an appointment and there are no issues at all. So, what was the difference? First: Mom understood the situation and didn't "enable" her. Then I was firm, factual and upfront with the fact that her childish behavior had done nothing but cause her problems to be much worse. When we got finished with her first appointment, I got a hug, and a thank you from the girl. She knew that I cared. It would have been easier and much quicker to simply walk away and let her have the temper tantrum, but I knew that was not in her best interest. Not all dentists are the same. Children who misbehave are stressful for dentists, hygienists, and assistants. Parents who enable their misbehaving children only make things worse. Realize if you don't help the dental team provide care for your child, the alternatives are much more difficult and expensive all the way around.
#1, take your children to the dentist for regular cleanings and examinations to prevent the biggest problems and create a good environment.
Daniel A. Lieblong, D.D.S.