One of the most infamous reasons an individual may avoid something is the all-familiar “fear of the unknown.” Furthermore, going to any medical office may make kids scared, especially because they may have had negative experiences before, or heard/seen others have negative experiences. For these and some of the following additional reasons, kids tend to want to skip out on going to their pediatric dentist:
Projection from parental fear
Parents that have personal fears from negative experiences may knowingly or unknowingly “project” their fears onto their child. In other words, they may say something like, “oh no, he’s much too scared to go to the dentist today,” when in reality, the parent is more scared than the child.
Negative portrayal of the dentist
Dentistry is famously portrayed in popular culture in a negative way. Plenty of movies and television shows display dental visits as scary and painful, often involving needles and blood. When kids are young and easily influenced, they see this and internalize those same feelings about the dentist. This may explain why kids who have never been to the dentist are suddenly terrified to go.
This reason is more common than you would think! Kids may be more likely to do things if it feels natural, as part of a daily routine. If something throws a wrench in their plans (so to speak), it may cause them to feel uncomfortable and they may try to avoid it.
How can you encourage kids to go to their pediatric dentist?
Positive reinforcement and encouragement tend to be highly effective when trying to coerce youngsters into doing what they are expected to do. Some examples of positive reinforcement after visiting the dentist without resistance include:
– Giving kids extra play time
– Letting kids decide what they want for dinner (if they do not usually get to)
It is important to note that when you are trying to get a child to do something they don’t want to do; they may likely resist. If so, try to avoid the following (even if it seems easier at the time):
– Rewarding bad behavior
This can include giving a child a lollipop to make them stop crying before, after or during their dental appointment. While this may be the quickest way to stop poor behavior, you’re just showing them that “when you cry and throw tantrums, you will get a reward (i.e., a lollipop),” ultimately reinforcing bad behavior.
– Giving a child something that will harm them more in the long run
For example, allowing them to stay up extra late will likely work against you as a parent when they are cranky or tired in the morning. Even though they may love to stay up late and may have gone to the dentist that day without a fight, this will ultimately harm your child more than help them.
Pediatric dentists are not only trained on how to treat children, but they are also trained on how to educate kids and de-escalate tense situations. Further, kids’ dental offices are usually very “kid friendly,” designed to make kids feel more comfortable and less afraid. Advanced Children’s Dentistry provides a calming, comfortable and educational atmosphere where our pediatric dentist Dr. Sybil Padavathil takes pride in caring for all her little patients! Schedule a pediatric dental appointment today at 516-758-KIDS.