The days of the Little Shop of Horrors are long gone!
In the late 19th century there was no professional registration of dentists. It was the Blacksmith, the Barber and the Wigmakers who were the ‘dentists’ of the day. Dental instruments and skills were basic to say the least. In 1895 the first dentist was registered in Ireland. Thankfully we have improved considerably since then! But there is no denying the stories of very poor treatment and pain inflicted on some patients, many only children by uncaring or poorly skillied dentists. This left its mark. For many the phobia is deep and permanent. All of this is unforgivable and should never have happened.
None of us were not born with Dental phobia. It should never happen. There is no need for it and it is wholly avoidable. Most dentists today are highly skilled, empathetic and sensitive to patient anxietyespecially when treating children. As a dentist I try to have fun and engage with them. I often count their fingers tweak their ears and twiddle their nose before I count their teeth. A mistake when counting to ten often has them giggling at the ‘Silly Dentist!’ A fun first visit to the dentist is often the basis for lifelong trust and friendship. It should be early (between three and five years old) and preferably when no treatment is expected. Having to do dental treatment on a child on the first visit is far from the ideal introduction to the dentist. It is hard to make friends with a child one minute and then drill their tooth the next.
We all want the child’s dental visit to go as well as possible and parents can help greatly with this. We understand that as a parent you may feel anxious for your child . The more relaxed you appear the more relaxed they will be. Parents must be careful to avoid unnecessary anxiety beforehand. It is unhelpful to discuss what will or won’t happen as promises may not be kept. It is also unhelpful advising them to ‘be brave’ as it will almost certainly make them more nervous. Don’t make them feel like they’re about to have a major operation or sit a major exam. Negative words should be avoided even if they are intended to be reassuring. ‘It won’t hurt Love ‘ may imply that It will hurt a lot! or ‘he probably won’t use a needle’ may mean he almost certainly will ! Finally when bribes are used rather than helping children to cooperate more it actually teaches them that getting upset will be rewarded. What does work really well is rewarding and congratulating good behaviour when it happens.
The old ways are thankfully long gone. Dentistry has improved enormously. You should find us kindly and caring and maybe even fun ! The days of ‘The Little Shop of Horrors ‘ are no more.
“Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.” — Japanese Proverb