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6 strategies to help a child who is scared of the dentist

dental services

A trip to the dentist is an important part of keeping our children’s mouths healthy, and teaches them good habits for the future. However, it’s not always a pleasant experience.
No matter how agreeable they are, being asked to keep still, open your mouth and let a stranger poke around in there can make even the most relaxed children, anxious.
We recently had an 11 year old girl, Mandy** come and visit me with her parents and two siblings. All the children in this family needed orthodontic treatment, and Mandy started crying when told this news.
During her second visit we got Mandy to do some chair-side assisting for her siblings which exposed her to the treatment process. This meant she felt comfortable to accept some treatment during that visit.
Eventually Mandy needed a series of appointments, one being an extraction which involved a local anesthetic for a baby tooth that had an unusual root system, similar to that of an adult. As we had exposed her to the process Mandy felt empowered to complete the treatment and in control.

 

 

Here are 6 strategies we use to make the trip to the dentist a positive experience:

1. Introduce ourselves. Then,
2. Ignore the child. This is so they don’t feel we are pushing ourselves onto them.
3. Focus attention on the adult and go about business so they can see what we are doing and evaluate the space
4. Let them familiarise themselves with the environment. When a child goes to a new location, their mind immediately scans the environment until they determine if it’s a safe place.
5. Operate at Patients Pace. We take the time until the child asks us if they can get into the dental chair. Once that happens the treatment takes a short amount of time and reduces treatment invasion.
6. We don’t say ‘don’t worry it won’t hurt’. We believe in honesty at Prevent Dental. My response when asked is “what’s important is that you’re in a safe place and you are in control”
 
At Prevent Dental we are mostly mothers and our culture is positive, nurturing, warm, and understanding – we want you to feel like you’re walking into a friend’s house.
Have you had an experience where you have been rushed or uncomfortable at the dentist? What could they have done better to have helped you? I would love to hear your feedback in the comments box.
Thank you for taking the time, we look forward to seeing you and your children at Prevent Dental!
** Names have been changed. 

4 thoughts on “6 strategies to help a child who is scared of the dentist”

  1. I remember the times when I was little, and how afraid of the dentist I was. My son is growing up fast, and he’s almost to that point. I’m going to make sure I start him going early, and playing play-dentist to help him get used to it. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Lately my son has been having trouble with going to the dentist. I had the same problems growing up, where I would become so afraid as soon as I got in the dental chair. I’ll make sure that my dentist operates at my son’s pace. Thank you for sharing!

  3. I really like your fourth strategy for helping children at the dentist. I have a timid child and he doesn’t always say what he’s feeling. Giving him a moment to explore his new environment will allow him to relax a bit. Thanks for the help!

  4. I think it’s really interesting that you should ignore the child to not feel like you are pushing yourself on them. I was really worried when we started taking my son to the dentist when he was younger. I am lucky that he was pretty good there.

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