Is there anything that strikes deeper into a parent’s heart than a child who needs medical or dental attention to deal with pain or ill health? What could be worse? How about a child who is too afraid — for reasons that are perfectly normal and understandable — to even step foot in the dentist’s office to get the treatment they need?
Countless kids and adults alike are afraid of the dentist. Normal and understandable as it is, it can cause serious health problems if it prevents a child from getting the care she needs to be freed from pain or to restore their health. What can parents do to help children afraid to see a dentist in St. Albert? Here are five ways parents can help.
As parents, you know all too well that your son or daughter are not just miniature versions of their parents. They have different emotional and physical needs and reactions than adults do, and unique medical and dental needs that parents haven’t had to deal with in decades. Rather than assuming that your general dentist will be able to care for your child, do the work to find a kids dentist in St. Albert. A kids dentist near you has received all the same training you did, plus two more years of education and training into the unique needs of children.
Once you’ve identified a potential kids dentist near you, go and visit it yourself. If your child has special needs or developmental challenges or has expressed a particularly acute fear of the dentist, talk that through with the staff at a dental clinic near you. Ask them about their experience supporting children and families with similar needs and experiences.
While you’re there, look around from your child’s perspective. How is the office decorated and equipped? Are the furnishings and decorations child-appropriate? Is the equipment child-sized? Are there appropriate distractions on hand to help your child feel safe in a frightening environment — books, crafts, sounds, televisions, music, etc.? Do the staff display a caring, calm and soothing manner?
The first time your child goes to the dentist will probably be the worst time. The staff at a dental clinic near you will help to make that first time as smooth as possible, but it may still be difficult. The key to your kids’ future experience of dental care can often be what happens next. Try and return to the clinic soon and often with your child. Pop in just to say hello. Take your child with you to your routine appointments. Show up for no reason at all. When it comes to fear, familiarity can be a powerful friend.
Everyone plays “Doctor,” but maybe more families should play “Dentist.” Make a game of brushing your teeth at the same time as your child. Let them practice counting by counting your teeth and even touching one after the other with their fingers. Let your child be the “Dentist” checking out your teeth and then play “Dentist” in turn while you count their teeth. Who has more? Whose are bigger? Buy your child a kid-sized lab coat and a miniature mirror to really up the ante. Next time you go to the dentist, let your child wear their coat so they can show off.
For many children, dental fear and anxiety is something that they’ll grow out of on their own. But you can help. Give these things a try. As you do, talk to your dentist about your child’s concerns and how you can help your son or daughter and how you can help a dentist near you help your child — especially if you’re one of the many adults who experiences your own common dental anxiety.