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Child scared of the dentist?

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It’s not an experience that anyone actually enjoys, but for some children, a trip to the dentist can be especially frightening. In most cases, some simple reassurance and the promise of a small treat afterwards might be enough to deal with the problems. Dentists these days are aware of the need to make kids feel comfortable, too, and most provide books and toys in the waiting groom to help distract younger children beforehand, and stickers as rewards for afterwards. But what if your child’s fear is more significant, and you are having real difficulty in managing it or getting them to the dentist at all?

Find the right dentist

First of all, find a dentist who understands the problem and who you can talk it over with. Dentists vary as much as any other professional, and some will be more patient and understanding with nervous children than others. Ask amongst friends and acquaintances and when you have identified a dentist, phone or call in to the surgery. Ask to discuss the problem and how they could help. If they are not willing to spend the time with you to talk it over, then they are probably not the right dentist for your worried child. It might be worth asking whether your child can sit on your lap in the dental chair to be examined, as this if often a big comfort to smaller children.

Child at dentist

Preparation

It is important to talk to your child about the dentist beforehand. Don’t avoid the subject, they need to be prepared for what is going to happen, so talk through the whole thing with them and tell them about each stage from arrival to leaving. You may be able to find a book about trips to the dentist that you can read with younger ones to help them feel more comfortable with the whole idea. Another idea is to role play with your child, setting up a play dental surgery at home and performing check-ups on their teddies and dolls, with you as the dental nurse and your child as the dentist. This will all help to take the unfamiliarity, and therefore some of the fear, out of the situation.

Timing

It might be best to take your child to the dentist first thing in the morning, so that they have less of a chance to fret about it. They will also be less tired and so may be less easily upset. Talk to the dentist, too, about finding a quiet time so that your child does not have to endure a long time in the waiting room with the sound of a drill drifting through the door. That can make an adult nervous, so think what it feels like for a child.

Doing it gradually

Try to make sure that your child’s first trip to any dentist only involves a check up. If they need a filling this might not the best time to do it. Once they have been to that particular dentist once, and got an appointment over and done with, they will probably feel a bit more confident next time and you can bring them back for any treatment after a little more role play about fillings to ease their remaining fears.

 

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About Paula Hendry

About Paula Hendry

Paula Hendry is a freelance consultant in the field of social work. She has been a social worker for twenty five years, and specialises in mental health. Paula has two children and writes in her spare time (which is virtually non-existent.)

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