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Have you ever wondered what goes on in your dentist's head when they have a look at your child's teeth? Or considered where their generous reservoir of patience ends? Find out and learn how to get on your dentist's good side for life!

Children and dentists have, to say the least, a complicated relationship.

Kids, of course, often hate going to the dentist because they're terrified of the "impending doom" that awaits them at the clinic. Whether you're a parent or not, we're sure you already knew that. Have you ever considered the other side, though? Because there is one, and it's this — dentists are not particularly fond of treating children, either!

February marks National Children's Dental Health Month in the United States — making this the perfect time for SteadyHealth to help raise awareness of the issues that threaten kids' oral health. One thing we can't ignore is the fact that dentists are often much-neglected as essential partners in your children's dental care. Some people wouldn't believe what I see in clinical practice as a dentist, but others may find a wake-up call in this writing. Let's make sure kids' dental health isn't just on your mind in February, but all year round!

Treating children with rampant tooth decay can be mentally and physically draining. The dentist's job involves a lot more than just carrying out dental procedures, which are relatively straightforward even when the child's teeth are a flaming mess. The behavior modeling can be very trying for dentists. Don’t underestimate the stress parents go through seeing their child cry and scared out of their wits, either, another dimension that can be hard for dentists to cope with. 

So, if children don’t want to go to the dentist and dentists are not too keen to see children either, what is the best way? Strange as it may sound, the answer lies in starting with dental checkups early in life, and continuing them regularly. Let’s get into the dirty details.

Kids' dental health tip #1: Get them while they're young

Children can be quite unreasonable, illogical, and surprisingly untrusting after fear taken hold. If a child has been taught that a dentist is basically the devil who will trick you into untold painful procedures, nothing a dentist says is going to work to change that. At the very least, it would take a lot of time and energy which the dentist would prefer not to expend.

This is why dentists want to see children from a young age, before they're scared and while they can still actually form a good relationship with the child.

The first few appointments are meant to just acclimatize children to the dental office. Get used to sitting in the dental chair, meet the dentist, play with some dental equipment, and just build a little bit of trust — that doesn't sound too scary, does it?

Here's the thing. Easing a child into seeing the dentist as a friendly partner in their oral care is definitely easier when the dentist does not have to carry out a couple of extractions and start a few root canals during the very first appointment. Keep in mind that research has shown that traumatic childhood experiences at the dentist can affect a person's dental health for the rest of their life, and lead them to make poor dental health choices.

Kids' dental health tip #2: Know that dentists don’t actually like to cause pain  

Contrary to what you may have heard or believe, dentists don’t "feed off other people's misery", and least of all children's pain. The ideal situation for a dentist is a child who develops good dental habits and does not need painful or invasive treatment. With regular checkups, the odds of this best-case scenario rise drastically.

Not only will the child be able to get preventive treatment like fluoride and regular teeth cleanings, but any tooth decay that does set in can be caught at an early stage. The dentist is going to make every effort to try and treat children without the use of needles, sedation, or pain but that is only possible through early intervention.

Parents want to explore these painless, non-invasive options after they no longer exist (because the child's mouth has fallen victim to extensive damage already), which can be quite frustrating for the dentist to explain.

Kids' dental tip #3: You're child's dental problems aren't really their fault

One of the most difficult things to get across to parents is that children are neither responsible for taking care of their teeth, nor will they be the ones to be most troubled when things start to go haywire. Think about it. Young children know just as much about the right kind of dental care as they do about their vaccination schedule.

We have not had any three-year-old call in to our dental office and book an appointment yet and hopefully, none of the children we treat have tried to drive down on their own, either. Likewise, it's parents who are responsible for brushing their kids' teeth until they are old enough to do so on their own.

It is also their responsibility to offer their kids a diet that is not harmful to their teeth. It's parents who must teach children the importance of dental care — and parents who need to bring kids in for dental checkups even when it is not the most convenient of times.

Compounding dental problems can become very expensive very quickly, and the number of appointments is also going to keep growing. Dental problems can become so severe that dental care is now out of reach for a lot of patients, and that is not something dentists want.

Kids dental tip #4: Trust your dentist

This article may come across like the rant of a dentist who's practically drowning in crying children with rotting teeth and neglectful parents, but it is actually more of a plea. The relationship between dentists, children, and parents is a triad, and it can be a constructive one — nobody needs to suffer. We can all get along without causing each other misery by just following some simple common-sense tips. Try and follow your dentist's advice, and escape this cycle of pain forever.