Throughout our history, the need to maintain our oral health has meant that going to the dentist was a necessary and often uncomfortable experience. However, we now live in a world of advanced technology where those discomforts are now moot.
Nevertheless some people still hold a fear of going to the dentist, enough to put off that important appointment until it may be too late. Even after a dental visit thinking, “that wasn’t too bad” or “hey, that was painless”; and still the next visit is put off because of an irrational deep-seated fear.
Introducing your child to the dentist at an early age and letting them experience the visit as a friendly and interesting interaction is probably the best way to acclimatise them psychologically to a lifetime of maintaining proper dental health. It is recommended that children should have their first visit by two years old. Allow your child to go with you when you visit a dental clinic. At Dental Matters, our dentist may offer your child a ride in the dental chair for fun.
- Help children to accept that dental visits are part of a regular routine.
- Be positive about dental visits and highlight the new, interesting and fun aspect of visiting the dental professional.
- Make your child’s appointment early in the day so your child is not tired.
- Arrive before the appointment time to let your child become familiar with the new surroundings.
- Be a ‘passive observer’ and let the oral health professional have your child’s full attention.
- Avoid vocabulary like “pull” “drill” “pinch” “hurt”
My memories of visits to the dentist as a child of an early age in Adelaide were looking forward to being given a little butterfly or airplane made of a cotton swab, and of being treated by a dental surgeon with a friendly smile and gentle manner. Then there was all the fancy technology around me that filled me with awe and interest. Yet I don’t remember any pain.
Then as I grew up in the schoolyard communicating more with my peers, we started learning phrases like “going to the murder house”, and all of dentistry’s past reputation of pain and gore came flooding into our consciousness. Irrational and unfounded, yet the damage to our mindset has been done. So as an older child I walked through the dentist’s door with trepidation and expectations of pain. Which is interesting, as studies have shown that children between the ages of 4 – 6 have less fear of the dentist than children between the ages of 6 – 10.
Hence the importance of having children accustomed to going the dentist as a normal part of life with little discomfort, before they are exposed to the irrationality of some schoolyard comments. The child will be able to confidently dismiss the invalid comments of their peers as nonsense and unfounded rumour. Hopefully, they will therefore be able to enjoy a lifetime of good oral health by maintaining regular visits to their favourite dentist throughout life.
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