As many of us struggle with visiting the dentist regularly, how can we help our children view the dentist as someone who helps us …. and a dental visit as something to look forward to! Rather than instill negative feelings in our children?
With frequent reports in the media about how a child has a tooth removed in hospital every 10 minutes due to decay it is even more vital that innovative ways are used to get the message across to families and children.
When children first come to see us they usually have no pre-conceived ideas or memories that make them feel anxious. What we have found is that they can quickly learn from the reactions and behaviour of the adults around them and start adopting the same outlook towards dental visits e.g. a degree of anxiety, fear, even an expectation that it will hurt to some degree.
Dr Batavia at Ravenscourt Dental Practice has carefully devised a simple technique to help children and families overcome anxiety and thereby achieve much better dental health.
Empowering your Children when they visit the Dentist
He says “The best thing a parent can do …. if they can…. is to let the child come into the surgery without them, in the presence of a dental nurse and dentist.”
The key is to enable children to start owning the experience and feel that they are in charge of it, so that they can ask the dentist and the nurse questions if they want to.
By encouraging children to hop into the dental chair, we create an opportunity for them to interact and communicate with the dental professionals themselves. Dr Batavia says “they then listen to and communicate with the dentist and nurse, establishing independence as well as familiarity with the dental professionals – and all this leads to easier communication.”
We then get the parents to come back into the surgery so that the child can then tell their parents what advice the dentist has given.
Once the parents are back in the picture we often observe that children revert to not listening. They start ignoring the conversation between the adults as they know their parents will be responsible. So the first step is very important for the child to get a better picture of what will happen and to be more confident with the idea of visiting the dentist.
If the child does require treatment we always discuss treatments with parents first, while the child is in the waiting room playing or reading a book. After a brief discussion we invite the child back in and explain what’s going to happen in a way that’s easy for them to understand.
Our advice to parents is to refrain from using language like “don’t worry it’s not going to hurt”, “Mummy (or Daddy) will be here”. Rather we encourage them to say things like “the dentist will take good care of you and make your teeth better”.
This helps the child to feel more confident, and that they are in charge, and in safe hands. This helps them to continue visiting the dentist and have healthy teeth for a lifetime.
Making better dietary choices is important in the long term for overall as well as dental health, however visiting the dentist for regular check-ups is just as vital to support children throughout their lives.
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