You know, 90% of dentistry is preventable and the basics of good diet, regular effective cleaning, and fluoridated water saves many people from ever needing a filling. But what other factors can parents do to maximise there childs potential for a healthy mouth. A huge part that is overlooked is the psychological.
Compare these 3 cases, that I see on a regular basis.
- 1 Parent has never brought child to a dentist, who now has a toothache or has fallen and broken a tooth. Mum and dad are both frightened of dentist and tell the child in a nervous voice to ‘be brave’ and ‘it won’t hurt‘. I once saw a father bring a 5 yr old in who had never seen a dentist, had an abscess, and the father said ‘Come on mate, time to get the needle’. Some parents even think it’s fun to tease the child – forgetting that a child’s sense of understanding is vastly different, and the joke goes bad when the child freaks out and needs to see a specialist under a general anaesthetic.
- 2 Parent is aware of all the right language, child’s teeth are fine and well cleaned, but the child is clingy. Parent doesn’t let the child speak and tries to be there 100% – unfortunately that means not letting the child climb into the chair but the parent putting the child in the chair or even sitting with them. Sometimes both parents come in and hover over the child within a 2 foot radius and become so close and desperate that the child is ok that the dentist has no room to even look at the child or try to start conversation.
- 3 Parent lets child have some space, sits in the room to give the child reassurance, and then starts reading a magazine and appears uninterested and unconcerned. The child focuses attention on what the dentist is saying, and sees that if mum or dad isn’t concerned, then there is probably not much to worry about. Parent brings child every 6 months and child develops relationship with the dentist.
The first scenario children I see usually need to go to a specilaist and be treated with sedation. They remain fearful of dentists for life, meaning irregular visits and eventually loss of their teeth.
The second scenario often mature and develop confidence, but if they ever have an accident or develop a hole in a tooth it is hit and miss how they respond. Sometimes they get to age 20 without ever needing a filling, and then become freaked out if they ever need the slightest bit of work done. Fear of the unknown makes then then avoid coming in for the recommended treatment.
The third group are comfortable with the dentist and I can give even the very young a needle or filling with no tears, no fuss, mum or dad in the room, and smiles when they leave.
All kids have inate personalities, and these are somewhat modified by their experiences over life. Yes parenting is hard and there are no easy answers, but my advice for what it is worth is this: be a role model to your kids as they will look to you always, look after your teeth and develop in them the same preventive behaviours, take them to the dentist regularly (time goes FAST! ), be available but give them room to explore.
And always (not dental related) – seek to be like your children and not to make your children like you – they have their own path to find. Happy parenting 🙂