Saturday, 23 May 2015
Helping Reduce Dental Fear in Children at Your Dental Surgery
Thousands of children around the world suffer with dental problems. We have seen this problem escalating in the United Kingdom with almost five hundred children being hospitalised each week for dental work. A high number of these children need up to eight of their milk teeth extracted with a minority needing all twenty removed under general anaesthetic.
This is a serious concern which is growing and I have found that educating expectant mothers in my dental practice has helped them understand the importance of good oral health in their children moving forward. Many expectant mothers are not even aware how important it is for them to ensure they have enough calcium in their diet while pregnant and that their baby’s teeth start forming while the baby is still in the womb.
The First Appointment
I try and make the first appointment as stress free as possible for the parents. I have found that when the parents are on edge at that first appointment, the child acts the same way, which can make the examination exceptionally difficult for both the child and myself. Over the years I have found that keeping the parents calm, explaining the process and ensuring they understand what the examination entails, helps calm their fears, which is passed on to their child.
Make Appointments Fun
While a dental appointment should be a fun experience, I ensure that all the children that visit my practice have fun and enjoy the experience. We have plenty of toys and books for children in the waiting room and I make use of puppets and toys to calm them throughout the examination and treatment process.
I also ensure the parents are taken care of, keeping them calm and relaxed, building up a good relationship with them and their children. I often find after the initial visit, the children are excited to visit me and walk in quite happily on their own because they know that they can trust me.
We play some fun nursery rhymes in the back ground and when they leave I have special oral health packs make up which include a toothbrush and toothpaste. I sit and explain to the children the importance of oral health and ensure they know how I am going to proceed with the examination before I touch them.
I find that I treat children the same as I treat my anxious patients. Explaining the process in terms they understand helps put them at ease and ensures the examination goes according to plan.
Recommend a Pretend Visit
Over the years I have found that parents who fear the dentist automatically pass that fear onto their children. While they don’t mean to do it, I will get a child in that has never visited the dentist and is absolutely petrified. When a parent phones in and advises us that their child is scared, we recommend a pretend visit.
A pretend visit is we go through the paces of booking an appointment, making them come in and wait in the waiting room and come into the surgery, except I don’t do any work. I sit and chat to the child, explain what I do and let them have a look around. I let them hear the drill and experience the noises. Once they are comfortable, we then set up the real appointment for a future date.
Always Be Prepared
Even the most experienced dentist will come across that one child that just won’t sit in the chair and be treated. It’s not unusual. The best thing is to be prepared. I expect it from every child patient I see and have found that turning the experience into a positive one and not forcing the issue, helps in the long run. The last thing you want is the mother holding down the child while you work on them, this is only going to cause a negative memory which will affect them in the future, which is why I allocate more time to the children appointments, ensuring the treatment and examination is carried out at their pace.