The Little Shop of Horrors is closed! Dr Conor Irwin
In the late 19th century there were no professional 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 especially children by uncaring or poorly skilled dentists. This left its mark. For many the phobia is deep and permanent. All of this is unforgivable and should never have happened. In our practice we sometimes use ‘Happy Gas’ ( Nitrous Oxide /Gas and Air ) to help very nervous children to relax for their dental treatment. But it should rarely if ever get to this stage.
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 anxiety especially when treating younger 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 needed. Bringing a child with a dental emergency for their first visit is far from an ideal introduction to the dentist. In Ratoath Dental and Implant Centre we see kids for free!
Some tips for parents:
- Your child’s first visit to the dentist should be early (between three and five years old) and preferably when no treatment is needed.
- You can help ensure these dental visits go as well as possible. Try not to pass on your stress ! As a parent you may feel anxious for your child. But the more relaxed you appear the more relaxed they will be.
- It is not helpful to discuss what will or won’t happen. Your promises may not be possible for us to keep. One of the worst things to say is ‘try to be brave’. This will almost certainly make them more nervous. Don’t make them feel like they’re about to do a bungee jump!
- Negative words should be avoided even if they are intended to reassure. ‘It won’t hurt Love ‘suggests that It most likely will! or ‘He probably won’t use a needle’ will be interpreted that he is going to and that it will be awful! We use positive happy words. So we wiggle a tooth to get it out. We tickle a tooth to place a filling and we use sleepy gel and liquid to put the tooth to sleep. Always positive not negative or scary.
- Bribes are generally a bad idea. Rather than helping children to cooperate it teaches them that getting upset will be rewarded. What does work well is rewarding and congratulating good behaviour when it happens.