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FAQ's

The 1st Dental Visit - Managing Anxiety in the child


How early should my son visit a dentist? He is 2 yr. old
Don’t be surprised if I tell you, that he should see a dentist as early as 2 – 3 years. You may wonder why so early! In this era of prevention, why wait for a problem to arise and let your dear child suffer. The 1st dental check up should, therefore, be before any dental problem like a toothache arises. You could let the dentist check your child, detect a problem if any and arrest it at an early stage. Even if there is no problem, you could discuss what you could do to nurture good oral health, various preventive procedures available today or even the correct diet for healthier teeth.

What will the dentist do during my child’s 1st visit?
During the 1st visit dentist would try and develop a good rapport with your child. The child should get well acquainted with the new surroundings and dental staff. Once the child is at ease, the dentist would check your child’s mouth and teeth probably using a mouth mirror and probe. He will check for cavities and other irregularities of teeth, jaws, gums and other soft tissues. Generally professional cleaning of teeth would be carried out and you would be advised on proper dental care.

My son is reluctant to go to the dentist. We have tried a lot but he refuses to sit on the dental chair? What should I do?
This fear is very common especially in young children. There could be many reasons for such a behavior.
  1. We call it "fear of the unknown". Child does not know what is going to happen on the dental chair. He is scared of a new surrounding and so many instruments around.
  2. Could be something you said that has created a fear in the child for the dentist. Most parents use doctor as ‘gabbar singh’ to frighten the child into obeying. How often have you said -"Do not eat too many chocolates or I will take you to the doctor and he will remove all your teeth". OR "If you do not brush your teeth, some day the dentist will give you an injection and you will be without teeth. Statements like these definitely create a fear for the dentist. The child associates dental treatment as a means of punishment thus this fear of dental chair.
  3. Your son may have witnessed a family member experiencing pain/ discomfort during dental Treatment. He would associate dentistry with pain and would always despise dental treatment/ dentist. If your son has seen the elder sibling or any other child in discomfort or in tears in the dental chair, he would not be very willing to experience the same. Also, if your son has had an unpleasant experience with one doctor, you will have to recondition him.
  4. Sometimes parents are more scared than the child. They tend to be over protective and exhibit this very strongly. What you don’t realize is that you are passing on your anxiety. This is especially in case of over anxious mothers. Parent’s use statements like "Don’t worry, it will not hurt." Even if the child is not worried he will assume that there is a reason to worry!!. Slightest tightening in the grip of mother’s hand, before entering the clinic can be sensed by the child. He can very well sense mother’s apprehensiveness and starts anticipating an unpleasant visit.

Now, telling you what is your role in all this, presuming this is his 1st visit to the dentist

  • First and foremost curb your own anxiety; be completely natural and easygoing.
  • The 1st dental visit should be free of discomfort and pain. For this reason the 1st dental check up should be before any dental problem like a toothache arises. If the 1st dental visit is pleasant where only a check up or at the most cleaning is carried out, child will not hold a grudge against anyone when he realizes nothing "BAD" happened.
  • Elder siblings and parents are like role models. Young children should, therefore, be allowed to preview pleasant dental experiences of the parent/sibling. On these occasions many young children climb into the dentist chair after their parents appointment. But mind you these previews should be selected very carefully. Since young children may be frightened seeing the needle of the injection, blood during extraction or even the noise of the drill. A parent’s follow-up visit is a good modeling opportunity.
  • Use "POSITIVE STATEMENTS". Remark causally about benefits of dental care.
  • Say that dentist is like a friend who helps you to keep your teeth healthy, strong and shining white.
My daughter's dentist says my interference will make it difficult for him to give proper treatment. He wants me to wait outside his chambers. How can leave my daughter, she is so attached to me.
It is true, if you are over-protective about your child, you may inadvertently distract the dentist and the child. Let the dentist do his job. They are trained to handle children of all sorts.

For being a help to the dentist - read on

  • Do not repeat orders – annoying to dentist as well as patient. Unless child is handicapped or too young (communication skills not developed).
  • Do not inject orders. Leave that to your dentist. It is very important for your child and dentist to develop a good rapport. Your interference only acts as a barrier.
  • Do not encourage tantrums. If your baby throws tantrums, she expects support from you. These are tactics to get off the dental chair.
  • Do not be offended if the dentist uses a stern voice or uses any method of physical restraint to control an uncooperative child. Do not worry, the dentist is only trying to gain attention and cooperation for a safe course of treatment.

Sometime it becomes important to separate the parent and the child. Kindly comply with this. This is only in the best interest of the child. The dentist would explain to you the reason for this separation.