Fear at the dental office is a learned behavior. We encourage parents coming to their re-care (cleaning, checkup) appointments to bring in their little one as early as possible. This usually means, the child sits in their chair in the corner or on the parents lap and observes. In most cases for a 1-2 year old, by the end of a 3rd “happy visit” with the parent, most little ones are eager to get in the dental chair to have their own “teeth counted and tickled”. When this positive choice is made by the child, it usually translates into better dental and systemic health as an adult with little or no dental anxiety.
In cases where a child has had a stimulus to induce a fear response, we use a different approach. First we need to get a proper history. What caused this? A previous bad experience with a provider, and if so, what specifically? Are parents or friends saying things that are causing the child to be anxious – you would be surprised how much little ones listen to the tone of what and how something is said. Once we know the possible cause(s), we allow the child to regain their perception of choice and encourage him or her to take charge of their appointments. We show them they have control and to make one positive choice in the dental chair on their first or second happy visit. Using this approach, over time, we are able to get children to take control of their attitudes about dental care. If you feel this approach would be helpful, please discuss this with your dental provider. In very rare cases, referral to a pediatric dentist is necessary and that can be discussed on a case by case basis based on your child’s needs.