Let’s not kid ourselves. We’ve all heard or even experienced stories of bad experiences in the dental chair. Unfortunately, it’s all too common for us to meet a new patient that has stayed away from the dentist for years. Many times they are returning to the clinic with a major problem that has forced them to come and the anticipation only adds to their nerves. The good news is that these stories are going to become less and less common. Gone are the days of patriarchal dentistry, and here to stay is the day of patient-centered care.
Patient-centered care means that the dental team is responsive to each patients unique needs. Some patients are happy to get in and out without skipping a beat. Others need time, patience, and a hand to hold. We have some patients that unreservedly refuse freezing for any procedure, but will have fillings, root canals and extractions completed. We also have patients who need extra freezing, which requires time, and we’re happy to wait. It also means we are happy to provide an environment that reduces the chances you child developing phobias.
There are a few things that you can do to help prevent your child from developing a dental phobia.
- Be positive and realistic.
Talk with your child beforehand, away from the clinic, about what is going to happen, and what to expect during the appointment. If you have questions about the appointment, don’t be afraid to ask the dentist or any team member. You don’t need to sugar coat the procedure, but don’t focus only on the negatives as that will only harbour fear. If you have a dental phobia, speak of ways that you have found to overcome it.
- Role play, read stories, watch videos, visit the clinic website
Think of this as a dress rehearsal. If you can have fun in anticipation of the appointment it will significantly cut down on nerves. Get a “Doctor Kit” from a toy store, and use the little mirror to “look” in your child’s mouth and then lay back on the couch and have your child “look” at your teeth. You can talk about the funny vibration that a polish or a drill creates. You can talk about the funny feeling they’ll have in their lip – and let them know it will look normal and come back to a normal feeling. Our clinic has a comprehensive website with pictures of the clinic and even a short – instrumental- video tour. Look at the pictures of the clinic and staff and talk about how nice we are :).
- Bring the child with you or an older sibling to a straight forward visit
Younger children look up to you and their older siblings. They desire so much to be older and, if they see you acting in control and positively, they will want to as well.
- Visit to play in the reception, tour the clinic, and meet the dental team/dentist
Sometimes it is best to visit the clinic without the pressure of having anything done. We are always open to showing you and your child around, or simply letting your child play in our Children’s area while you sit back and have a coffee on us.
- Only do as much as will be tolerated at first, and build up in stages (e.g. Check-up, Cleaning, Other stuff)
If you don’t think your child will tolerate a long first appointment, then it should be kept short. In really little kids, sometimes their first appointment is simply a conversation with the parents, and that is fine as learning about oral health is as important as a dental exam. We want to earn your child’s trust and are willing to put in the time to do it.
- Fully communicate previous issues with the dental team and dentist
The more the dentist and dental team know about you and your child’s background, the better we are able to respond to your needs.
- Bring a favourite toy or distraction
Their favourite teddy bear or car will always be welcome – so bring it. You can also bring music or videos.
- Be there for support
There are exceptions, but most of the time it is helpful having a parent or trusted friend in the room as a support. Praise them constantly, and, if they do cry, let them know it is ok to nervous and that they will be kept safe and taken care of.
- Short appointments
There is no need to keep you child in the chair for two hours just to get all their fillings completed. Let’s break it up and keep appointments short and positive. Besides, it will mean more prizes – and what kid doesn’t want more toys?
- Sedation as a last resort
There are a number of options to sedate you child, if no other behavioural methods work first. Nitrous Oxide is very safe, but still requires cooperation. Other oral or IV conscious sedation methods can also be effective, but require a well trained provider. Finally, work can also be completed under general anesthesia in a hospital setting which carries the most risk and also the longest wait time. Speak to your dentist if you think you need one of these modalities.
There is so much more we could discuss about this issue and communication is really the key. If you have questions or comments, feel free to make a comment on Facebook, call us (780-986-6255), email us (firstname.lastname@example.org), or come in for a visit.
Thanks for reading.
Dr. Jack Gordon