Many adults who visit us for the first time carry a fear of the dentist from a painful or frightening experience as a child. The result can be serious damage from long-term dental neglect (often from avoiding a simple procedure).
DV Dental is considerate of how the experience of our very youngest patients may affect their perception of visiting the dentist for a lifetime. It’s not unusual for kids in the schoolyard to try and scare each other with horror stories of pain and gore in the dental chair.
The worst thing to do, however, is to wait for a problem such as a toothache or sporting trauma to happen and make that their first memory of sitting in the dentist chair.
Tips for getting your child ready for a dental visit.
Let them sit in on your checkup
Allow them to see the way you, or an older sibling, behaves during a routine clean. This will help them better understand what to expect, and see that it’s no big challenge. We can introduce them into the office, maybe have a ride in the chair and get a chance to meet us prior to an appointment.
Choose your words
When talking about the dentist, avoid words like shot, drill, and extraction. Kids are very perceptive to the terms we use and our emotions. We recommend that if a parent has their own dental anxiety that they don’t discuss it in front of their child. It may even be better for the other parent, or another family member with whom the child has positive feelings, to bring them into the dentist.
To make the experience more pleasant, we can always talk them through what to expect, introducing them to Mr Thirsty (our suction device) and Polishing Polly who helps makes teeth squeaky clean. As a parent, remember to emphasise the positives, like having fresh and minty breath.
Telling the truth ensures that there are no surprises or broken promises. Trust is earned slowly and can be easily lost when making promises that can’t be kept.
Let your dentist know
If they are a first-time patient or are generally anxious about new experiences, let us know so we can prepare the office and staff accordingly. Things like putting potentially scary tools out of sight can help, as well as talking them through what they might expect.
Most kids just need a little time to get comfortable with the new person and to ask questions, allowing them to have control. Sometimes a little distraction is required, such as breathing exercises, a ‘brave’ toy to hold onto, or even silly songs.
What if they won’t sit in the chair or open their mouth?
It may be a stressful time for a kid visiting the dentist for the first time, so additional pressure or heightened emotions won’t help the situation. Force and threats can have long-lasting impacts. Our dentists work with kids often and are very understanding.
Follow our cues, and if it ends up being a no-go for whatever reason, think of it as a stepping stone to the next visit.