According to authors Gerald Z. Wright and Ari Kupietzky, we are not born with a fear of the dentist. It is acquired or ‘a learned response’ to a painful experience or it is picked up from dental fears or negative attitudes of parents. Generally parents understand this and try not to influence their children in this way.
To break – or even better, prevent – this cycle, it is important to build a rapport with the kids. Conversation aimed at their level, and taking extra time for explanations and procedures will not only encourage co-operation, but form the foundation for a healthy stress-free relationship.
Parents in the surgery
Often parents want to be in the surgery with their child, and usually this is fine. The dentist’s main focus should be on the task at hand, as well as how the child is feeling. If a parent is uncomfortably anxious or the child is ‘playing to them’ in some way, retiring to the waiting room may do much for the dentist’s concentration and a smooth appointment.
Finding the right dentist
Appointments before school are a great idea. After a night’s rest, kids can be far more amenable to tolerating such chores as visiting the dentist than when tired at the end of a day. ( Their friends may have been teasing them/worrying them about it all day.)
Not all dentists feel confident managing or relating in general with children, so it makes sense to choose a family oriented practice, one that will meet your child with patience and understanding. One that will not perpetuate the ‘fear of the dentist’ myth. And a great start is bringing them – even as toddlers – along to your own check-ups.