Dental nurse, Anna Fejfer offers some helpful advice to parents of nervous children.
Going to the dentist for the first time can be a nerve wracking experience for some people.
This is especially so when you are very young and probably completely unaware of what will happen. Slightly older children may also have experiences of the dentist being an ‘evil character’ in a story, such as the popular ‘Demon Dentist’ book by David Walliams. It is likely therefore, that a fair number of children probably dread their first dental visit, which really is a shame.
We’ve mentioned before that you should ideally bring your child to see us for the first time at around one year old. At this age, they won’t have fully developed this type of fear and an early visit will enable them to get used to the dental surroundings, usually without the need for any treatment. Even if no teeth have come through, it is a good idea for the dentist to examine the gums so that they are nice and healthy when the teeth finally erupt. This can reduce the discomfort often felt as their first teeth come through, and hopefully make for a happier child!
Especially if you are a nervous patient yourself, you may transfer some of these feelings onto your children. So to help you to bring your child to The Lodge Dental Suite with the minimum of stress, we offer a few ideas which you might wish to consider
Educate them in advance
If, one day, you suddenly announce that they are going to the dentist the next day, there is every chance that young children will panic. All sort of images will go through their heads; usually quite unpleasant ones. You can help to prevent this by educating them about why they need to see a dentist, well in advance. You will be able to find child friendly educational videos online and also a number of picture books with simple and non scary illustrations to help them feel more relaxed. If your child is old enough to use the internet, try to ensure that they don’t search dental images as that may produce rather scary looking medical images which certainly won’t help.
Let them bring a ‘friend’
Very young children especially, are likely to have a favourite cuddly toy, or even a ‘comfort blanket’. We are more than happy for you to let them bring these into the examination room. Where they bring a toy such as a bear, our family friendly dentists are happy to give Teddy a check up too so that they can see what will happen. If Teddy doesn’t cry, then hopefully they will feel more confident and relaxed about their own examination!
Organise for a relaxed visit
There is little worse for a child than to be dragged into the dentist at the last minute, with you flustered because you are late. There are opportunities to arrange for some of the paperwork to be sorted out before you come for your checkup at our Cheshunt practice. If documents can be signed in advance, there will be less waiting time for the child to build up their anxiety. So please call us well before your child’s appointment to see what can be done in advance.
Mind your language
Kids pick up on all sorts of things, and even when we think they aren’t listening, they often are. When discussing their visit, either with them, or with friends or family when the children are in earshot, try to avoid using words like ‘pain’ or ‘drill’ etc. Keep your language ‘soft’ so that you don’t frighten them.
Don’t pass on your own anxiety
This can be quite difficult as anxiety is often illogical. Your children will pick up on any fears that you have, so this is a good time to try to deal with your own anxieties too, if you can.
There is every likelihood that your child will be asking a lot of questions about what happens at the dentist. Try to reassure them and do remember to tell them that if they do need treatment, that it won’t happen at their first visit, so they needn’t worry about that one at all.
Kids love to be rewarded. In addition to seeking their parent’s approval for being a brave boy or girl, they will probably also try to wrangle some form of treat out of you as well. Although it is better if the treat is a tooth friendly one, such as a trip to the cinema, if they want sweets, then, well, just this once perhaps is OK. Let’s face it, it isn’t that long ago that sweets were given by dentists following children’s treatment. Whilst sweets are not an ideal treat, if they help to get your child to the dentist with the minimum of fuss, it is probably a price worth paying as a “one off”.
If you are a parent in the Cheshunt and Waltham Cross area whose children have yet to see a dentist, why not make an appointment to see one of our child friendly team at The Lodge Dental Suite by calling us on 01992 643388.
Anna Fejfer is one of our Cheshunt dental nurses – GDC 259672