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Children experience many firsts: first tooth, first words, first step, first birthday and first haircut. Parents want to be prepared for every step of their child's new life experiences, including dental visits. Only parents willing to model positive attitudes should accompany their child on a dental visit.
Parents averse to their own dental visits may transmit negative messages to children before, during and after a dental treatment. "Fearful parents can actually create a nervous and anxious child," says Jane Soxman, DDS, pediatric dentist and Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. "Parents who are afraid of the dentist need to change their mindset."
Most children are not only comfortable but even curious during a first dental exam and cavity-filling procedures. However, a child may become problematic when the accompanying parent laces soothing messages with hints of fear or anxiety and relays incorrect assumptions about procedures.
"Because parents' interpretations and expectations towards dental visits can be quite different from the child's, parents need to be honest with themselves about their views of the dentist," says Dr. Soxman. "If a parent has severe dental anxieties, he or she needs to make every effort not to pass those fears to the child."
"Parents' presence is support enough for the child," added Dr. Soxman, who emphasizes the importance of parental presence for the first exam and until the age of 4, for restorative treatments.
Pretreatment meetings with a dentist provide directions and guidelines for the parent if he or she wishes to accompany their child during treatment. Parents learn how to provide moral support and to maintain a low, calm voice. Dr. Soxman suggests that the parent not "parrot" the dentist's requests but support the dentist as the authority figure during procedures. It is also important for the same parent to accompany the child during each sequential visit to fill any cavities.
"A parent's positive presence during early dental visits will empower a child to a lifetime of positive dental experiences," said Dr. Soxman.
Reviewed: January 2012
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