Children are traditionally afraid of a few things: scary animals, jabs and the dentist. Not all fears grow over them, but hopefully those for the dentist – after all, you have to go there (at least) once a year until you die.
In all seriousness: a fear of the dentist can take serious forms. Many of these children are better off with a special pediatric dentist, because they specialize in a) being infinitely patient and b) knowing well how to deal with anxious children.
"Lots of time and patience, and the fact that I really enjoy working with children. You can be a little crazy with children, which makes it often more fun than with adults. The longer I do it, the better I like it. "
The key question: why are children so often afraid of the dentist?
"I may not really make friends with colleagues here, but I often think that the problem is not necessarily that the children are afraid of the dentist – but that the problem is often that the dentist is afraid of children and their possible reaction . Children feel flawlessly: everything is about to happen here, but they don't know what. Parents' anxiety and tension – "how is my child going to react to this?" – immediately changes to their children. "
How does a pediatric dentist respond to this?
"You actually make an estimate of what is and what is not possible upon arrival. You take age into account; you will not drill holes for a child of 3 or 4 years old. But also with the 'robustness' of the child: there are children of 4 who are above average for their age and where you can do 'more', just as there are children of 7 who are above average afraid of pain, and where so you really can't do anything without anesthesia. "
When is it time for the first visit?
"A good age to take a child to the dentist for the first time is when they are 2.5 to 3 years old. Earlier is not a good idea, because they do not understand who that dentist is and especially: what she wants. "
Bringing small (er) children to the appointment of an older brother or sister, or mommy herself – "then she can see the practice sometime" – is it a good idea or not?
"If that means their first time to the dentist: don't! For the first time it is better if they only come when it is their turn, then I can take the time for them, instead of having to watch what I do with the brother, sister or mother. If they themselves have been in the chair before, that is much less objectionable. "
What can parents do to curb the fear of children?
"If the parent himself is also afraid of the dentist, they should not talk about it in the presence of the child, and would rather not come along. What is good is to tell you in advance that we are going to the dentist, and that he will look in your mouth. Furthermore, they should not tell too much about the possible treatment – leave it to the dentist himself. I'd rather talk to the kids about ditjes and datjes first, have them look around a bit in practice and then show them instruments, while I tell them what I'm going to do with it: the tell, show, do principle. That works considerably better. "
Holding hands, isn't that allowed?
'Sure! Children often like it when mom or dad is sitting next to them, of course. But parents who talk too much and thereby distract me, I can ask you to be quiet for a moment. Too many confused conversations is rather confusing. And if dad makes a semi-funny comment ("you're not afraid of that, you only need a little pair of tongs!"), I just ask the child if we will put Dad in the hallway. You can keep it very light with humor. "
Where does it often go wrong?
"If dentists try a treatment to see if it works, even though it is clear that the child is very scared of it. Under the motto "we have tried it anyway" and "if it doesn't work, we will try something else." Even though dentists mean well, they only make the fear worse – and you don't solve the dental problem either. Even if a lot of hassle succeeds, you will see that if the children have to come back next time, they will not dare to go into the chair. "
What are alternatives?
"Performing treatments under general anesthesia or through laughing gas sedation – an easier form of anesthesia, ideal for children. Through a nose mask containing a mixture of oxygen and laughing gas, children are brought into a state in which they are a bit dreamy and less anxious. It is effective, and moreover, more innocent and safer than anesthesia. "
Your winged remark if it really doesn't seem to work to get him in the chair?
"We really can't go home until I see your teeth. Simple but true. And of course "he or she can sit on daddy's or mommy's lap, if he likes that." And if they have been good, they can choose a gift when it is ready. "
Can children ever get rid of their fear of the dentist?
"Yes, that is much easier than adults. In contrast to adults, children can make their fears easier after a few positive experiences. Some children who were terribly scared at first come into the practice after two years of dancing. The crux is that as a dentist you make as few mistakes as possible, then children can handle a lot – they are often tougher than you think. Plus: regular monitoring – every six months – is the best prevention to avoid major problems and associated fear. "
"The call to parents to be aware of the consequences of drinking milk at night. In my practice I see many children of 5, 6 years with more than eight holes! It is often a combination of poor nutrition and poor brushing. But for little ones with holes it is often because they get a bottle of milk in bed from mom and dad, or even chocolate milk or fristi. At night you make less saliva, making your mouth drier, and because no water is drunk in between, everything stays on your teeth. If a child drinks something at night, rather let it be water! "