Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Not so helpful warnings

If you are or plan to become a parent (and one who will take your child(ren) to the dentist) please read:

It is common knowledge that people hate the dentist. Despite the hit I take on my self esteem with this issue, I can see why...funny smells, piercing loud noises, lack of personal space, abberant water spray, and often moments of discomfort...although I think hate is still a strong word.

Even so, do you think a 2 year old knows this? Are we born with an innate fear of the DDS? I doubt it.

That is why I often become frustrated with parents (and siblings). Mom will bring back little Timmy for his first dental visit--an easy look, tooth brushing, and fluoride. Mom then says, "Don't worry honey, it wont hurt," and the easy look becomes much more difficult. Timmy is suddenly wondering why he got a warning if it isn't going to hurt.

Then, when treatment is actually needed such as a common filling, sister tells baby all about how awful and scary it is and what a huge needle, etc. Or, Dad, trying to prepare the child, will tell them how they are going to get A SHOT. They love to ask me as I come to the lobby, "Will she get a shot today?" Often, the child doesn't even realize they had "the shot" but the description and "preparation" makes them agitated and fearful, making treatment that much harder. They continually ask, "When am I going to get the shot?" Always try to look at the syringe, and often try to grab the syringe out of my hands which is dangerous and much worse than the injection itself.

Today a patient brought in her child because she was worried the child had a problem. She told me right off, "I told her she would probably have to have a tooth pulled today and she is terrified." ...Great! I told her today we would do any such thing, we would have to take a look first. Mom became a bit agitated, and asked, "When will you then?" Turns out everything was perfectly normal but mom made the child fearful for nothing. I'm not sure why the mom was so sure of what the child needed to make the suggestion (almost demand) in the first place.

Moral of the story:

Please don't try to be helpful by informing your child every little detail of what will happen in their appointment. We do a very good job of what we call "tell-show-do" every step of the way. I am convinced most dental behavior problems can be prevented by letting the dentist describe the procedure to the child and by treating dental appointments in a non-chalant manner. If you really must tell them something, something like, "Dr. Erin is going to wash away all of your sugar bugs so your teeth can be healthy again," should suffice. They may never even have to know about "the shot." After all, I don't "give shots," at least not to kids. I "drip sleepy water" onto teeth.


SterlingDiver said...

It gets easier with kids as you get a little older :-), though I am sure it is extra hard when they don't always comprehend what is happening and that you are trying to help them.

Sounds like interesting times.

Suz said...

In your own practise, it my be wise to talk to the parents when they call and make an appointment for their kids. Have a written pamphlet of suggested ways to prepare their child.

Maybe parents just need to be educated as much as the kids.