4 tips for dentists to take the fear of the dentist away from a child!
The feeling of fear rises, even before the children come into the dental practice. Their heart rate goes up and tears well up. It’s not uncommon for children, or even adults, to be afraid of the dentist. But where does this fear come from? It has to start somewhere. In the Netherlands there are almost one million people who are afraid of the dentist. This often results in postponing their visit and having more dental problems than necessary.
What can you do as a dentist to reduce this fear? Hang happy decorations in the waiting room? Some balloons perhaps? What to do to remove the Scary dentist-image?
Research shows that fear for the dentist is caused by childhood trauma, in the form of a bad or unpleasant experience. The fear usually starts in young children, because of the bright lights, loud sounds, bad tastes, and a little bit of pain. Enhanced by scary stories from friends or family members, the anxiety only becomes worse.
As a dentist, you know that children's primary teeth have more cavities than adult's teeth, because primary teeth are not as strong. Also, many children will visit the dentist at some point after a nasty fall and a broken front tooth. Whatever, the reason, children usually get more dental treatments than adults. Because of this, it is important that children have a positive association with a visit to your dental practice. But how? Wondering how can you ensure this?
When children go to the dentist for the first time, they are not afraid. But parents know that can be scary. And even though children have no idea yet, they can still feel anxiety. So, it is up to parents to give the visit to the dentist an enthusiastic spin. As a dentist, you also have an important role in this, after all, you are going to give the treatment. A positive impression at this point will give you and your young patient a major advantage for later.
Parents will appreciate it when the dentist takes the child into account. They will also recommend you as a dentist to friends or family members in the long run. After all, in addition to being a healthcare provider, you are also an entrepreneur.
Below you will find 4 tips that will help you to reduce children’s fear of the dentist:
1. Allow kids to come with their parents for their appointments. Give them something to do, like letting them “help” you with the treatment, so you can prevent fear of the dentist.
Of course, this isn’t only up to you. But you can stimulate and inform parents about the advantage. So, parents will bring their children along when they go for their own treatment, even if children feel some fear. This is your chance as a dentist to give the child a positive vibe. As a dental practice you can indicate that there is a possibility that children can come along and attend the treatment in the treatment room and help as a dentist.
Let them help you with the treatment and give children a little bit of responsibility. Small things like putting the dental chair their parent is sitting in up and down and taking a look at Daddy's mouth. Children will love this, and you will contribute to a positive effect of visiting a dentist, the anxiety will decrease or disappear altogether. At the end of the appointment, you could give the children a certificate with 'Successful in Dentistry' and let them keep the face mask as a souvenir. Possibly supplemented with a small (sugar free) candy? You just made their day!
2. Reduce fear by starting early to prepare for the dentist visit!
A positive approach is an important thing for kids. By introducing them to the dentist at an early age, a child will definitely benefit from this later on. Advise parents to start preparing one or two weeks before the visit, this can be done by reading booklets about the dentist or talking about it at home.
There are several booklets for sale in which children can get information about what it is like to visit the dentist and reduce anxiety. Try to choose a book title with a positive twist, there are many booklets for sale with 'Afraid of the dentist' or 'The dentist is a monster'! Try to recommend the booklets that add a cheerful note, for example: 'The happy Dental Salon!
3. Play acting as a Dentist at home
A role-playing game might be a little uncomfortable for parents at first, but it often works very well for children. By recommending parents to do a role play at home, you will notice that children with a more secure feeling will enter the treatment room and fear of the dentist will disappear. Parents do have face masks at home nowadays, the most recognizable item of a dentist.
This way, you can advise parents to create a recognizable setting for the children. So that everything at the dental practice isn’t new and scary. Children will enjoy going to the dentist despite the fact that they have to get a treatment.
4. Playing in the dental practice distracts children and prevents fear of the dentist
In addition to the tips above, playing before their appointment also provides a positive distraction. Children can redirect their anxious thoughts for a while and focus on the games that you offer in your waiting room. One of the reasons that many dentists decide against toys in the waiting room, is that somebody always has to clean up all the games, books, and puzzle pieces a few times a day. But there are play concepts that are easy to clean and don’t contain any loose parts. So, you can keep your waiting room interior tidy and clean.
A kids’ corner doesn't have to be big. You won’t have that many kids in your waiting room at the same time. An interactive screen, where children can choose between different dental-themed games already offers enough solution. With an interactive game, children can get familiar with the work you do as a dentist. For children, it has a calming effect when they see recognizable elements from the game come back during the treatment. IKC makes software with games that fit your wishes and corporate identity.
Two to three times a year a visit to the dentist is necessary and as a dentist you have an important role to play in relaxing children and making sure they have a positive experience, to prevent fear for the dentist. Parents also have an influence on this, but you will have to educate them about the importance of preparation. This starts at an early age. A little bit of nervousness in children is healthy when, but it is important that the nervousness
Once bitten, twice shy! Therefore, the best solution is prevention: create the most positive atmosphere possible for your youngest patients.does not turn into fear or anxiety.
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