Easing the Fears of Children

Although we are not a pediatric dentist’s office, we see lots of families, including children.  Most of the time, we are able to make our dental office a fun place for kids to visit.  Kids always leave our office with a bag of goodies and we are able to send “No Cavity Club” certificates in a majority of cases, which really emphasizes the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene.  In spite of doing all we can to make the seeing the dentist a positive experience, in some cases, children are simply scared.  Whether a child has had a scary experience in the past or is just afraid of the unknown, some kids really need some extra reassurance, which is where the parents come in. 

We try to give parents a bit of advice before seeing their children, especially if the child does have to have a filling or some other work outside of a routine cleaning.  We ask that parents tell their children about the upcoming visit, but limit the details given.  The single worst thing you can do is tell a child that the upcoming visit will “hurt” or that he or she will be given a shot!  It really builds up the anticipation and apprehension about the visit.  Dr. Stirneman is really talented at distracting children and using terminology that is benign and does not ramp up the fear factor. 

It is also really helpful if parents can refrain from telling kids about their past unpleasant dental experiences.  The truth is, dental technology has come so far that even procedures that were painful in the past are now easily tolerated and no cause for alarm. 

If mom or dad will agree to wait in the waiting room during the procedure, this can also be beneficial.  Although the thought of leaving a little one alone can be anxiety provoking, most kids put on their bravest faces and do best when the dentist and assistant are able to work quietly and efficiently together. 

Finally, we believe that the most important job of the parent is to emphasize the necessity of maintaining a healthy smile with regular brushing, flossing and dental visits.  We encourage parents to bring along their toddlers to take a "ride" in the chair with them to become acclimated to the office and to make the morning and nighttime brushing routines something fun and relaxing. If parents train children early on to get into the good habits of brushing and flossing, seeing the dentist will be a pleasant experience for everyone.

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