Everyone knows that children are impressionable, and many people who avoid dental care as adults recall traumatic experiences at the dentist as children. Unfortunately, the absence of routine dental care can cause painful infections of the teeth and gums, broken and discolored teeth, and bad breath. Fear of the dentist is a major reason for dental neglect, and can almost always be avoided.
The conduct of the dentist is directly related to the development of dental fear in children and adults. The past experience that causes the most fear is the memory of a dentist causing pain during treatment and then humiliating the person when they complained. The dentist saying denigrating things like, "This isn't hurting you," or "Stop being a baby" compound the painful experience at the dental office. Even though the pain from the treatment fades quickly, the insensitive comments made by the dentist continue to live on in the minds of the children and are often carried through to adulthood.
Consider these tips:
The dentist should be sensitive to the needs of each individual child. Patience and care during treatment will prevent anxiety in future visits.
Dentists should encourage parents to bring their children to the dentist by age two, earlier if there is noticeable discoloration of the baby teeth or if the child is signaling pain. The sooner the child is seen, the less likely the child will have extensive dental problems.
If dental treatment is required, the dentist should usually start with the procedure that will be easiest for the child to tolerate. This allows the child to build confidence for future visits.
The dentist should avoid giving local anesthesia for simple fillings, if possible. Newer technologies, like air abrasion and lasers can effectively remove decay in many cases, avoiding the fear evoking needle and the prolonged feeling of numbness.
The dentist should consider conservative treatment for children's baby teeth. Treatment that is less involved, takes less time, and causes less discomfort is also less likely to contribute to fear in the future.
Having a television in the treatment room with an age appropriate station will help children cope with the clinical setting of the dental office. A small toy after successful treatment gives the child something positive to associate with their dental visit.
Children who need extensive dental care or those that cannot be managed by the family dentist may best be treated by a specialist called a Pedodontist.
More Answers from Jerry Gordon