Many parents struggle when it comes to dealing with children who are anxious about visiting the dentist, especially if the parents are anxious as well! Here are some helpful tips for moms and dads to help eliminate the anxiety associated with dental treatment.
Prepare them at home before their dental visit by explaining what a dentist does and what will happen during their check-up. This can be done in a fun way by telling them a story for example. There are also a few story books with nice illustrations or photos for children about dentists/dental visits. If the parent reads one of these books with their child before the appointment, it may make the whole experience more fun and relaxed as the child would know what to expect and will not be taken by surprise during his/her appointment.
Mothers could also explain to their child the importance of going to the dentist and that it is essential to have healthy, clean strong teeth. Sometimes using superheroes or cartoon characters as an example can help. For example, Superman is strong and has strong teeth – if the child likes Superman then he/she would also want to have strong teeth just like Superman.
Some mothers are anxious about dental treatment but it is important that they do not show their fear in front of their children as this will scare them as well. I have seen some mothers coming in with their children looking very scared, and telling me that they are scared of the dentist. This does not help and will instil negative thoughts about dentists in their children’s minds. Mothers should, therefore, hide their fear and encourage their children to attend for regular check-ups.
I always suggest to mothers to avoid using the word ‘injection’ in front of their children. Nobody likes injections, especially kids, so why bring it up in conversation? The first thing to consider, is that some dental treatments can be done without the use of an injection so there is no need to mention it in the first instance. Secondly, it is often possible to give the patient an injection without them realising that it is an injection. I use phrases such as ‘we need to numb up your tooth so that we can clean it without you feeling anything’ or ‘we need to put your tooth to sleep by giving it some sleepy juice, once the tooth is sleeping we can clean it quickly before it wakes up’.
I also tend to avoid using words such as ‘drill’ or phrases such as ‘drilling your tooth’. I call my drill ‘Mr water spray’ or ‘Mr buzzy’ and say ‘Mr buzzy will tickle your tooth’ which most of the time makes the child giggle and smile.
If the patient is being uncooperative during their treatment or refuse to have their treatment done, then it would be helpful if mothers assist the dentist by talking to their child and by using positive re-inforcement to help their child relax and cooperate. At the end of the day, as dentists we cannot force the patient to have treatment, so it is up to the parent to be persistent if they wish.