MOM HELP, I’M SCARED OF THE DENTIST!
I’M SCARED OF THE DENTIST!
How can we calm our kids before a dental appointment or surgery?
Most moms often need to manage their scared kids at the dental office. Most of the time kids scream, do not want to sit down and won’t open their mouth…
Doctor Pamela Parolin, specialized in Pediatric Orthodontics at the Centro Ortodontico Vicentino, tells us why most of them are afraid of the dentist and how we can deal with this fear.
Being scared of the dentist is very common as we are all scared of the unknown.
However, if this innate feeling is combined with anxiety linked to a previous negative dental/medical experience or a wrong parental behavior, since parents often transmit their fears related to treatments to be faced by their kids, what happens is that children respond to therapies in a negative way.
Moreover, their developed capacity for imagination, especially if influenced by stories of negative experiences told by parents and acquaintances, can lead them to a new version of the unknown, thus originating a strong emotional stress.
Fear often emerges when they feel a lack of control or a potential painful experience, especially if they are aware of having a dental problem.
Let’s start from the fact that the goal of Pediatric Orthodontics is to prevent and eliminate oral-facial pathologies, infections and pain and to restore dentition shape and function.
But how should we proceed when our young patients do not want to cooperate? How can we get them ready for a dental appointment?
By now modern Orthodontics has developed many non-pharmacological (behavioral) methods useful to help kids, teenagers and people with disabilities decrease their anxiety and develop a positive approach toward the orthodontic world and carry out dental treatments in a safe and effective way.
In this delicate approach, the pediatric dentist is the most important person and the one who accompanies kids throughout the entire path. He is adequately trained and specialized and is able to choose the best approach based on their development level and their predisposition to therapy, evaluate temperament and predict their reply to dental treatments.
Each kid reacts to the dentist’s communicative and behavioral methods in a different way: tell-show-do, positive support, non verbal communication, distraction etc.
This is when the specialist’s skills come out and become extremely important: choosing the best method in order to decrease fear and anxiety and reassure the kid in front of him.
In most difficult cases and surgical interventions, it is possible to associate these methods to specific pharmacological anxiolysis procedures such as nitrous oxide, a toxic gas whose effect immediately runs out after the detachment of the mask and which has the goal to destroy anxiety, stress and vomit reflex.
A second important element is the place (waiting room and office) where kids are welcomed and treated.
This needs to be welcoming and familiar, get their attention and motivate their cooperation, so that they can feel at ease. For this reason, I suggest the waiting room is provided with toys and equipment suitable for children’s psychophysical development.
Another essential element is the first visit, which represents a very important moment in the process of getting in contact with the orthodontic world and determines a feeling of trust and empathy which are necessary for the success of the orthodontic treatment.
The dentist should make the first appointment a fun, positive and constructive experience for the kid.
The best moment to introduce it is when there have never been dental problems nor painful pathologies.
The kid will then start to gain confidence with the orthodontist and the tools he/she uses like an “expert magician” and will learn to recognize the typical smells and noises of the dental office.
A first visit with a demonstrative goal, in addition to a general one, can therefore be an advantage.
Nowadays a relaxed dental experience is possible, so keep in mind all these aspects when you choose the dentist for your kids and you will see how easy it will be to make them jump “on the magic armchair which goes up and down!”