Fear comes from the unknown – or from a known, unpleasant or traumatic experience.
Fear in children
Children do not have an innate fear of the dentist, but they can develop one from hearing people around them speaking about their unpleasant experiences. It can come about from some other traumatic experience, if, say, the child feels frightened by medical staff during some other examination or procedure (such as having a blood test) then he can develop a “white coat phobia” – a fear of health workers in general. That is why it is very important to talk to the child openly and prepare him for his visit to the dentist. Perhaps even more important is to be a good example to your child.
When a parent brings a child to our surgery, we first examine the parent and then the child. This helps build trust with the child and he can see that the procedure is not unpleasant in any way. After examination of the child a treatment plan is drawn up. We explain the plan to the parents in detail, and begin with the simplest procedures, e.g. removal of plaque or sealing fissures. Only once a relationship has been established with the child will we move on to some more involved procedures such as tooth repair. It is vitally important that the dentist be able to speak to the child and that the parents work with the dentist in order to build a good relationship with the child.
Do adults also have fears about visiting the dentist?
Unlike children, adults have fears arising from unpleasant experiences in the past, most often involving intense pain. In these situations we first talk with the patient about the procedure that needs to be performed. The process is explained to them and they are told how long the procedure will last and especially what its purpose is.
Is there really any need for fear?
Today all procedures are performed under local anaesthetic, which completely eliminates any pain while the dentist is working. The patient can feel that something is happening, but cannot feel any pain. Discussing things openly and giving all the necessary information are key to relaxing the patient. It is also very important that the patient be aware he or she has come to the dentist for help and for treatment of something which is affecting their health. The dentist is not some scary person who enjoys hurting people! They are medical professionals whose motive is a healthy patient who is happy with the way his or her teeth work and look.
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