5 Tips to Help Children Overcome Fear of Dentists
By Buttercup 7 Day Dental 12th Jan 2017
Even the nicest, kindest and friendliest dentist can be a scary place for young children. There’s weird smells, pointy implements and an adult poking around in their mouth. It’s no surprise that many children grow up with a fear of the dentist. We, however, think that it’s a tremendous shame. Denists are just regular people and our one job in life is to keep your teeth nice and healthy. There’s honestly nothing to be worried about.
For this blog, we’ve sat down with Dr. Eugene Gamble and Dr. Rita Eichenstein to discuss how we can all help children overcome their fear of the dentist.
#1 Get started early
Dr. Eugene Gamble is a UK-trained dental practitioner and Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. He got straight to business, sharing his number one tip for overcoming the fear of the dentist: starting early.
Try to start attending the dentist as soon as teeth come through. this way the child builds up their dental experiences in an unforced way. Knowing there is no real dental work to be done also helps the parents as they tend to transfer their own apprehensions to their children.
The worst thing to do is wait until there is a problem (toothache or a dental trauma). If you do, you risk embedding a fear as you introduce a new environment to a traumatized child in pain. You risk the child associating the traumatic experience to the dentist and creating serious issues.
#2 Teach good oral hygiene
We all agreed that making good oral hygiene a habit is something your children will thank you for when they’re tearing through super tough steak in their retirement. Sadly, healthy nashers are really only something you miss once they’re gone.
When your children are young, start by explaining who the dentist is and what they actually do. Try to make your child see the dentist as someone who helps them with their teeth — not just someone who wants to poke around their mouth!
Next, build structure around brushing, flossing and regular check-ups. A no-nonsense approach to your child’s routine shows them how diligent they have to be to keep their teeth in good shape!
#3 Make it familiar
Los Angeles-based Dr. Rita Eichenstein is a licensed psychologist with specialist training in paediatric neuropsychology — so if anyone knows about childhood fears, it’s her!
When we spoke to Rita, she explained that treating phobias was all about making the experience familiar and bringing an element of control back to your child.
Fear of the dentist is similar to other phobias and fears, it includes the unfamiliar, fear of loss of control and sensory sensitive children are particularly vulnerable to it.
Treatment involves frequent visits in advance to the doctor’s office, sitting in the waiting room, getting to know the dentist in the waiting room, visiting the “CHAIR”, playing with the tools, sitting in the chair, learning to use some of the chair controls and practicing opening one’s mouth really wide.
#4 Don’t think about it
I know, I know, it’s one thing to say don’t think about it but another altogether to actually not think about it. We found the easiest way to get your mind off the dentist is to just do something else.
When you’re on the train coming in, read a book. When you’re in the waiting room, watch some funny YouTube videos. When you’re sat in the chair, listen to some music. Just do something that takes your attention off the dentist!
And just so you know, we’re not going to take it as a personal insult if you want to pop your headphones on during treatment!
#5 Find a friendly dentist
This is probably the most important tip of the bunch. If you don’t tick off this one, all the rest will be wasted. You can take your children to the dentist early, you can make the experience super familiar to them, you can teach them impeccable dental hygiene and you can keep them distracted but if your dentist isn’t friendly, it’s all for nothing.
Before you book an appointment, visit the dentist and have a chat with them. Learn about their personality, their approach and start to build trust between you, your child and them.
While everything at Buttercup is about delivering a relaxing experience for our patients, the same cannot be said for every surgery out there so it’s important you do your due dental dilligence!