This is a sponsored guest post.
Remember when we were kids, we used to dread going to the dentist? Well, things haven’t changed much today either. Whether it is the fear of the needle or the frightening noise of the dental drill, if it stops your child from going to the dentist, then it is a problem. According to an estimate, around 13 to 24% of people in the world suffer from some form of dental phobia.
In this article, we discuss 5 concerns that kids have when they have to visit the dentist’s office – and how to overcome them.
Before we continue, as parents, it is important for you to talk to your children and understand their specific fears or apprehensions about dental treatment such as oral surgery.
- Fear of Separation from the Parents
Getting separated from the parents is nothing short of a nightmare for the children, especially when they are asked to sit on the dental chair – all alone – in front of a dentist and the assistant, wearing masks and using different scary instruments. As parents, you must understand that this is natural. To overcome this problem, your dentist may allow you to accompany your child into the operatory so that he or she knows that you are around. This gives them a sense of safety and they become more cooperative and responsive.
- It Will Hurt
Most children are afraid of dental treatment as they think that dental treatment is all about poking needles or sharp objects into their mouth and it may hurt – which is not true. You must tell your children that most dental procedures do not require any needles or sharp objects.
Although needles are needed for some dental procedures, such as during the administration of anesthesia, we, as parents must convince our children that they are not routinely needed for their treatment. You should also avoid using the words “painful”, “hurt”, or “shot” in front of your children, as it can make them even more anxious.
- Fear of the Unknown
It is a basic human instinct to fear something which they don’t know much about. Since children are not aware of the procedure their dentist will perform, and why they are necessary, they become apprehensive as soon as they step foot into the dentist’s office. Pediatric dentists are trained to allay the fears of an anxious child and calm them down. For this purpose, dentists use a technique called “tell – show – do”. This approach involves the following steps:
- Tell – the children are made aware of the procedure which the dentist will perform on them.
- Show – Instead of making any sudden movements that may frighten the child, pediatric dentists show what they will do to the kid and what instruments they will use so that they don’t panic.
- Do – once your child is calm and aware of what procedure will be performed, your dentist will start performing the actual procedure. The basic idea is to prevent any surprises which may frighten the kids.
If your child’s dental fear stems from the feeling of helplessness or loss of control on the dental chair, the Dental Fear Central recommends that the dentist and the child can agree on any “safe gesture”, which will serve as a “stop sign” for the dentist to stop the treatment right away. In this way, your child will feel that he is in control of his or her treatment and they can stop it if they feel any pain or discomfort.
- Previous Unpleasant Experience
Although not common, a previous frightening or bad experience at a dentist may cause your child to develop dental phobia. In such a case, you should bring your child to a pediatric dentist who specializes in treating kids having different forms of dental phobias. Pediatric dentists also have purpose-built offices and operatories containing pictures of cartoon characters, superheroes as well as toys and comics in the waiting areas, which help the kid become relaxed, calm, and accustomed to the surroundings.
For extremely frightened or uncooperative kids, pediatric dentists can also use conscious sedation – a technique in which they use a medication that makes the kids drowsy, but conscious enough to respond to the dentist’s commands. Conscious sedation has been found to be very helpful for kids having severe dental phobias. You can know more about the recommendations of conscious sedation for kids by the American Dental Association (ADA) here.
- Fearing the Noise of the Dentist’s Drill
One of the most annoying things for the kids at the dental chair is the noise of the dental drill, which they naturally associate with pain and discomfort. To overcome this fear, your child’s dentist can show the dental drill to your kid and explain to him or her how it works and why it is used. Reassuring the child that the dental drill won’t hurt will also help in making them more cooperative and responsive.
As parents, we serve as role models for our children. Whatever we do, they will follow us – whether it is our hobbies, likings, activities, and even profession. The same holds true for your child’s physical and dental health. It is our responsibility to follow an optimal oral hygiene routine so that our kids learn good dental habits.
Also, if we take our kids to the dentist right from a young age, they will become familiar with the environment of the dental office and become less afraid of it. Finally, we must portray the dentist to our kids as a kind and caring human, not someone cruel or scary – as shown in some movies or cartoons. The relationship between your kid and the dentist must be of care and kindness – this is the only way to remove the fear of the dentist from your child’s heart.
Author bio: Dr. Fadi Swaida first graduated from the University of Western Ontario with an Honors BSc in Biology before graduating from the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Dentistry. He is an active member of his church and enjoys football and being by the water! His outgoing personality and fun-loving character will ensure you always feel welcome at Bond St Dental.