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Posted on April 9, 2019
Here at Lake Baldwin Dental, we strive to create a comfortable, anxiety-free atmosphere for all of our patients. However, this is especially important for our pediatric patients! When I was growing up, it was a universal truth: kids hate the dentist. In the past several years, the dental community has made great strides toward breaking that stereotype and now most of our young patients tell their parents they can’t wait to come see us again! (Which, sure, may have something to do with our amazing treasure chest, but we like to think we’re doing our part as clinicians as well.)
Before showing up for your first visit, or first filling, or any new experience in the dental office, you may want to prep your child a bit. This is not a bad idea, but the golden rule here is: LESS IS MORE! While the unknown can be daunting for children, too much information can also sabotage their experience before it even starts. Obviously, how you talk to your child depends entirely on your parenting style. My kid, for example, is accustomed to full disclosure without any sweet talk. My best friend, on the other hand, is very gentle when speaking to her child, and tends to give a generous dose of sugar coating. Both approaches are completely valid, but here are a few guidelines which help, regardless of how you parent.
Avoid words like “shot,” “yank,” “poke,” etc. Even for those of us who chose the no nonsense, lay it on the line approach to parenting, there is no reason to put an expectation of pain in a kid’s head. This includes when you are talking about your own dental care! Nine times out of ten, our kids will share our fears just from overhearing us talk about how much we hate getting our teeth cleaned, how horrible our dentist was as a kid, or how terrified we are to get this root canal treatment. You may actually plant the seeds of fear way before you ever talk to them directly about the dentist.
In addition to the obvious words to avoid, I strongly urge parents NOT to use cavities as a threat or dental work as a potential punishment for bad habits. For example, it is so tempting to keep candy consumption under control with familiar phrases like, “If you eat too much sugar, you’ll get cavities! If you don’t brush, your teeth will rot!” I’ve even heard parents take it a step further: “You’ll get cavities and the dentist will have to give you shots in your mouth!” What happens if a cavity does show up down the road? Rather than feeling like something a doctor can fix in an easy, low-stress way, there is already a load of fear and negativity built into their minds.
Any time you talk about teeth, brushing, cavities, or the dentist, make sure to try and stay positive. Yes, we obviously want kids to be aware that brushing and flossing will help keep their teeth healthy, but it’s also not the end of the world if they do happen to develop a cavity. In that case, how you describe the procedure of a filling is hugely important to your child’s success in the chair.
We describe a cavity filling to a young child something like this: “Part of your tooth is sick, so the dentist is going to smear a little jelly near that tooth to make it so you can’t feel that tooth for a little while. Then, they will polish away the sick part of the tooth and fill it back up with plastic that is going to look and feel just like your regular tooth. When it’s all over, your tooth will wake back up and you won’t even be able to tell the difference.”
You don’t need to try and mention the needle at all. We can take care of prepping them for that part. Don’t feel like they need every detail, but a strong gist of the procedure will help them feel like they know what to expect. And always make sure they know they can talk to their dentist and ask as many questions as they need. For especially nervous kids, we can also offer Nitrous Oxide, which we describe to children as “a little mask for your nose that has special air that will help you feel calm and happy.” In some cases, we will refer your child to a pediatric dentist, both for their comfort during the procedure and so that their dental home here at LBD is always a happy place that keeps them smiling!
950 Lake Baldwin Lane
Orlando, FL 32814
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