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Parent face many challenging situations as they bring up their child, and near the top of that list for many will be taking their child to the dentist. Getting a child to accept any medical treatment can be tough, however dental treatment is the only place where the child can simply refuse to open their mouth and there is nothing that can be done about it.
There has to be a small amount of compliance from the child, otherwise the treatment cannot be provided. This can turn into a really ugly situation causing a lot of heartache and stress to all the parties involved.
So what can you do to ensure that your child learns to accept dental treatment and does not develop an irrational fear of dentists for life?
It Starts With The Parents
The first thing to remember when approaching this situation is to realize that while some children are petrified of going to the dentist, others seem absolutely happy to get their routine check-ups done. It is not a given that every child has to fear the dentist.
A lot of the time, parents just consider a fear of the dentist a normal thing, and not only do they not contradict this, they also perpetuate it. A threat of "we will take you to the dentist if you.." is used for everything from not eating your food to having too much candy or just simply as something horrible that will happen to the child if they do not behave.
It is important that parents do not compare a visit to the dentist to a punishment. Another thing that the parents should never do is to bribe the child for going to a dentist.
What they should do instead is to instill the importance of keeping their teeth healthy at a young age and make them understand the role a dentist plays. They should also be informed a little bit about what they should expect at the dentist.
If the parent is unsure themselves, then a simple web search will throw up videos that the child can watch.
At The Dental Office
Once the child is in the dental office, the role of the parent and the dentist becomes equally important. The importance of a smile and a friendly disposition towards a child who is experiencing dental treatment for the first time cannot be overstated.
Most dentists do not perform any procedure on the child during the first visit. The objective should be to get the child acquainted with the surroundings as well as the people in the dental office. The child should be made to sit on the dental chair and be comfortable enough to open their mouth and allow for an examination by the dentist.
Some children are too scared or unwilling to even sit on the chair. In such a case, the parents are instructed to sit on the chair with the child and the examination is done after that. It is important to let the child know that this will not be repeated on further appointments.
The dentist should, in simple terms that the child is familiar with, explain what they can expect from the procedure. For example, the water spray during cavity preparation can be explained as a tiny shower to give the teeth a bath.