Getting your child ready for the Dentist and vice versa
Dentist’s visits are disruptions. Not the good kind of disruption either, like a midweek trip to the cinema or a kid-friendly theatre production coming to town. These are disruptions that can bring confusion, apprehension, uncertainty, and a whole host of other issues into your child’s mind.
Fortunately, UK dental companies are generally an understanding bunch (or brace, amalgam, or wince if you believe Wikipedia’s collective noun listings), and with some careful selection and a little preparation, dentists visits need not be an overly disruptive ordeal. This all breaks down into two sets of processes. First, how you can get your child ready for the dentist, and second – vice versa.
Preparing your child for the Dentist
Ample Warning Time
Given how far a dentist’s visit is removed from most children’s everyday routine, they will need extra time to get ready and pre-process things. Springing something like a dentist’s visit, a haircut, or other unusual necessity upon a child will only lead to more disruption and anxiety.
With enough pre-warning, expectation breads familiarity, and although the expression says that breeds contempt, what we are really aiming at here is nonchalance. A sense of easy familiarity that sadly/hopefully cannot be achieved with repetition in the case of a dentist. But if we can’t achieve familiarity with repetition of the reality, at least we can get close with repetition of the idea.
Explain, Explain, Explain.
Children are more like adults than we think sometimes. One of the biggest similarities comes in the form of that popularly quoted Francis Bacon-ism “Knowledge is Power”, or its more colloquial cousin “the more you know!”. If a child has a clear understanding, not just of what the dentist is, but why they’re going there, what they will be doing, how long it will take, and all kinds of other aspects of the wider scenario, as a rule they’ll be a lot more comfortable.
Not only will this help solve the problem of dentist-related-disruption, but children always get a kick out of being treated like the adults, so the if they feel like “The Patient”, the most important person in the room so to speak – this could be very useful with their confidence and the tools they develop for facing scenarios they don’t usually deal with.
Some children do have genuine fears and phobias of the dentist and all the associated experiences. In all these cases, do not be afraid to look for help. There’s all kinds of resources out there, whether your child deals with autism, general anxiety, or other associated issues.
Getting your dentist ready for your child
Watch for the sign
Since dentistry isn’t a profession that has much use for passing trade, many dental surgeries put little to no effort into their store frontage. While that might be fine for adults, if you see this at a dentist’s surgery that you might be taking your child to – this is a big red flag. Any dentist worth their floss who claims to be experienced with children should know how much of a weird and disruptive experience a dentist’s visit can be. If they can’t even be bothered to do a little sprucing up and make the outside of their shop inviting, they very likely haven’t offered wider effort on the inside either.
Since, as was previously mentioned, the UK’s dental companies are an understanding wince, they will be very happy to answer questions asked about the experience their staff have with younger patients. This is an additional self-selecting process, since if they’re not willing to answer, they clearly aren’t worth your time.
While you might be tempted to not entirely trust the self-advertising claims of the surgery staff themselves, you can always ask around. Whether it’s online or at the school gate, there will always be fellow parents who can inform you of the good and bad experiences they have had.
A child friendly surgery and a child experienced dentist knows very well that what is routine and everyday for them is bizarre, strange, and even otherworldly for the child. They have strategies and ideas in place to deal with these situations, all lined up and ready. Some of which you will see when you walk through the door.
Colour, theme, fun!
A good child friendly dentist knows that its not just about talking to the child, keeping them calm, and strategic applications of numbing gels. When a dentist really wants the child to be calm and the visit to not be a disruption, they make effort to change the entire environment.
If your dentist has gone to the effort to theme their child treatment rooms, to add colour and brightness so that this is not just a drab and intimidatingly institutional environment, and generally to make the setting one that a child doesn’t have to associate with something out of the ordinary in a negative way, you can be sure they are a keeper.
Dentist trips can be difficult, and expecting it to be as simple might well be a mistake. But with a little forethought and some planning and selection, the whole affair can be much less disruptive.
Disclosure: This is a featured post. Images used with permission.