What to Tell Your Child at the Dentist Office?
As pediatric dentists, we have learned over the years that language either calm or panic a child at the dentist. Words like shot, injection, and drill never seem to work well with children because they carry with them connotations of pain. The fear of the unknown is magnified by the suggestion of something that is going to hurt them, and many children will avoid telling their parents about problems they are experiencing in order to avoid a trip to the dental chair. Of course, procrastinating in this fashion usually results in the condition becoming more serious, and the treatment becoming even more complex, expensive, and scary in the mind of the child.
There is a way to avoid this dilemma. Be conscious of the words you are using with your child, and avoid using anything language that could suggest danger, a feeling of helplessness, or a sensation of physical pain while at the dentist. Think, for a minute, about of how you talk to your child about other activities. For example, when you take him or her to the zoo, you do not say, We are going to the zoo to see the tigers with razor sharp claws, and the lions with teeth as long as your fingers. Who on earth would describe the zoo to their son or daughter in this fashion? Instead, you say, We are going to the zoo to look at the big fuzzy cats.
What is the difference between the two statements above? Imagery is the difference. The things we see in our minds determine our emotional states. One image of fierce, man-eating beasts creates instinctive reactions of terror. The other image suggests stuffed animals, safety, and comfort (comfortably safe behind bars, of course).
Honest parents often forget that there is a difference between a euphemism or a metaphor and a lie. In an attempt to educate children and completely factual with them, they may use too many clinical terms with their children end up scaring the daylights out of them. We do not suggest that you like to your child about what they will experience at the dentist office. However, there are metaphors and cute ways of describing both dental conditions and procedures that will conjure up imagery in a childs mind that will either make them giggle, relax, or imagine something fun and entertaining.
One dentist that we know of avoids using the words examination and tooth decay. Instead, he tells a child that he is counting their teeth and looking for sugar bugs (cavities). If he finds a sugar bug, he asks for permission to fix it and asks if the child will help. Invariably children are very positive and enthusiastic about the prospect of getting the sugar bugs out of their mouths.
Some other terms we suggest using are as follows:
Drilling teeth cleaning teeth
Nitrous Oxide- magic air
Shot- sleepy juice
Pull tooth- wiggle the tooth out
Tooth cleaning- tickle your teeth
We recommend that you take this approach with your child, and that you also avoid transferring any negative experiences you have had at a dentist office in the past. Sometimes adults unconsciously transfer their own anxiety to children. Acting confident and carefree yourself will help your child feel more at ease while visiting the dentist, and it will also encourage him or her to come to you sooner when a dental condition pops up.
Cosmetic Dentistry is a specialized field that requires extensive knowledge and experience to be done correctly. The Medical Center Dental Group in Houston, Texas brings all of that and more to the direct benefit of each and every patient we treat. Although we are located in the world famous Houston Medical Center at Scurlock Towers, we routinely see dental patients who travel from Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Beaumont and Midland Texas to see Dr Dale Brant, Dr. Charles Campbell or Dr. Elizabeth OSullivan-Winslow for their cosmetic denistry services.