A Child and a Dentist Can Be Great Friends
Is this possible? It really is! Going to the dentist can be a pleasant experience, of course, if you start going to one on time. And when is the right time? As early as possible, with the appearance of first teeth, certainly not only when something starts aching!
It is a fact that, if we take our children to the dentist only when there is a problem, chances for establishing friendship are slim. However, if we start taking care of that on time, if children start spending time with the dentist at the earliest age, it is almost certain that the dentist and the child will become friends. Parents usually have many questions related to the fear of a dentist, and based on my long-time experience, I can say that answers to that question are pretty simple.
“I am very scared of going to the dentist, and I’m transferring this to my child.”
This is something parents unconsciously do. If parents are constantly afraid of dentists, that fear unavoidably gets transferred on children. Children sense it, hear it and adopt the parent’s fear. Do not let your children go to the dentist with prejudices resulting from your sense of unease. Be the third, necessary link in the child-dentist-parent chain, because if a single link is missing, there will be no friendship and cooperation. The parent sends a message to its child with his or her behavior, conversations and relationship with the dentist. Let that message be a positive one.
“Who is the best dentist for my child?”
There is no real answer to this question. Children have the right to like someone to a greater or a lesser degree, or not like them at all. Some children like that their dentist is a “nice man”, some prefer a “nice lady”, and that is all-natural. Some children prefer younger, some older doctors. All these are factors that can facilitate the establishment of cooperation and the beginning of a friendship. The best dentist is the one who manages to establish a friendly relationship with your child, the one who has your child’s trust.
“This man/lady will not hurt you.”
“Mummy will defend you.”
“Daddy is also here.”
This is often heard at the dentist’s, and it is completely unnecessary and unrealistic. Because what does it mean that the man/lady will not hurt you? Mummy/daddy is here, who will “defend you”.
Going to the dentist entails an examination, something the man/lady needs to do. Man/lady are not enemies who want to hurt the child, the parent’s presence should not be interpreted as the need to defend the child, their presence is for support.
Children appreciate honesty above all. That is why being consistent is important. If we promise the child that its teeth will be counted, then that is what should be done. If there will be anything unpleasant, then it is best to warn the child of it, because children appreciate honesty, and will deal with anything more easily if we tell them the truth.
“How can anyone say they like going to the dentist?”
They really can, there are many children who say it, believe it or not. At the dentist’s is an area where children can have fun if the dental chair is presented as a special space chair which goes up and down at the push of a button, a chair that is like a beach lounger, you can lay in it. And when the “Sun” is turned on, there are also sunglasses, for boys and for girls. And there are many other interesting things. There is a special toothbrush, blue or pink for boys for girls, a toothbrush which nicely tickles the teeth, cleans and washes them, and there is a tractor-like sound as well. And then there is the dryer which dries the teeth, and finally a shower – showering is fun.
Of course, without “Drinky”, who suctions out water and spit from the mouth, everything would be wet, and that is why there is a magic straw which, after quick abracadabra, becomes “Drinky”, who suctions out the water. But that is not all. The dentist also has pillows for the teeth, special small rolls of paper which are put next to teeth so they can be nice and cozy, while the dentist polishes them with magic gel and then uses his magic lamp to turn them from a liquid into stone. WOW!
And then, when it’s all done when the Sun shuts off, and the space chair is lowered, there is a reward in a secret box. Children will spend a lot of time with this box. They should choose what they like the most – a picture or a sticker or… Who knows what else is in the secret box which only the brave ones get to open?
Finally, the list of the bravest. The ceremonial moment of being put on the list. Awarding a diploma for the bravest.
When going to the dentist is presented to children in this manner, it is not unusual when children like to go to the dentist’s and spending time with their friends – the dentists.
“OK, but what if the child has caries? Then what?”
Then first we need to work together and determine why we allowed a child’s tooth to get ill. What did we do wrong? It isn’t complicated, the answer is simple, all it takes is honesty. Either it is an unhealthy diet or bad hygiene. When we accept the mistake and recognize it, we need to make an effort of making it the first thing we will correct.
The next step is to cure the tooth. Any tooth treatment can be completely painless. If you go to the dentist in early, while the caries is still in its inception, such an intervention is completely painless. The shower, tractor, Drinky, dryer, pillows, and gel will do the trick. However, if caries has spread, anesthesia would be the only option for making treatment painless. Even though the process of giving anesthesia is not that painful, it still requires using the needle, of which the majority of children are scared, and the very thought that it will be used on them is really scary. This is when you should use the story about magic water, and equate the needle with a mosquito which will only sting the tooth and make it go to sleep. Of course, that doesn’t always work.
Because there is no magic wand in dentistry. There are many things that are magical and special at the dental clinic, but there is no wand for making the consequences of bad habits disappear.
The ideal of every dentist, especially of those who treat children, is for the little patient to trust them, and that counting pearls and polishing them is all they need to do when the child sits on their chair. This is what every parent should strive for. Not for themselves, but for the little human who doesn’t have to face a painful dental treatment.
About the author: Ljubica Pavlovic Trifunovic is a pediatric dentist. She joined the authors of the Novak Djokovic Foundation blog with a desire to raise awareness about the importance of children’s dental care. Besides her love for her work, her great passion is traveling.