Advice re: Dentist!

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    • #10692

      Hi everyone

      A bit of a long story but I need some input as I’m not sure which way to go.

      My 8yo had some dental issues some years back and I found the best paediatric dentist I
      could – and he did an amazing job with fixing her issue (better than others were proposing).

      So we have, of course, continued to see him.

      But my youngest (about to turn 4) hates the dentist. Screams the place down and it’s really unpleasant but I have empathised with her through it and the female hygienists and the male dentist have been able to have very quick looks in her mouth.

      The last time we were there, though, the male dentist was upset with me and my daughter and he reprimanded me saying I needed to be stronger with her and not reinforce the idea it was scary. I told him I would always empathise with my daughter’s feelings.

      I am now considering taking my 4yo to my female dentist but I am concerned that if she has the same problems as my older daughter (I am doubting it would be as bad for various reasons though) I may ‘need’ this other male dentist.

      I think if he was more understanding I would definitely stay but, given he isn’t, is it the better choice for my daughter to start fresh with a female dentist or see if she can overcome the fear of the current male one?

      She is telling me she will let mummy’s lady dentist look in her mouth but I know there are no guarantees.

      My female dentist’s office is asking for her dental records to be transferred but I think that’s unnecessary as she’s not had anything done or had x-rays or anything.

      And thank you for reading!

    • #10694
      Meg Rodney

      Hi Natalie,

      Oh, dental fears are so difficult, aren’t they?! I am so grateful for my son’s compassionate and understanding dental team. We had some harrowing visits ourselves. It would have been so difficult had our dentist shamed me into not offering my son empathy and compassion.

      In reading what you wrote, I think were I in your shoes I would go ahead and switch to the lady dentist because that sends the message to your little one that she is heard, her opinion matters, and she has say in who can look at her teeth. It is okay that the male dentist isn’t a good fit for her. I think having a good rapport with a dentist who is caring for you is a big thing. She doesn’t have that with him. Could she work through it? Yeah, maybe, but only if he were willing to also work through it with patient empathy. It doesn’t sound like he is willing/able/happy to. If you need to go back to him later because of unusual dental needs, you can cross that bridge when you get to it. I think you can leave his practice without it being a big deal. He is a good dentist; he just isn’t a good fit for your little one. That’s okay.

      At a neutral time, you could help your little one with the dentist anxiety through play. Maybe play roles where she is the new dentist and you are her and then switch. Or maybe have her be the dentist of her toys. Have her work through how she’d like it to go. Have her play through any fears the toys might have, etc.

      If you decide to stay with the current dentist, I would recommend play for working through the fears. Again, role playing with the toys – she can talk through how the toy feels, and she can be the dentist. You could ask her to show you what happened last time. You could have her show you what she wishes would have happened. Maybe you could show her what you wish had happened. See where it takes you. Tears or laughs can come and would both work to help release some of the tension she has built up.

      Best wishes!


    • #10695

      Hi Natalie,

      That’s so hard for your girl and so understandable that it’s all quite scary and out of control. So many adults, and I’d even say the majority of adults, still get nervous going to the dentist because of stressful experiences they had with dentists and/or parents who weren’t emotionally available and sensitive and hence couldn’t help them with their fears. Your girl is so lucky to have you as her fierce advocate, and how beautiful that in the face of the dentist’s criticism and inappropriate assertion of his authority that you expressed that strong commitment to continuing to give your girl the emotional empathy and care she needed. What he said would have sent all the wrong messages to your girl about the validity of her feelings and needs for emotional support, but your response would have hopefully helped her retain her dignity.

      I basically just want to second everything that Meg has already said. If at all possible to change to your female dentist who you trust will be more kind and patient, then definitely do that. As you say there’s no guarantee your girl won’t be again distressed, but hopefully she and YOU will feel more supported in dealing with all that distress if the dentist is on side with being caring and sensitive. It’s hard enough for it to be a difficult experience without dealing with an insensitive grumpy dentist. The current dentist just has a very different understanding of how feelings and fears should be dealt with, which as Meg says just isn’t a good fit in a situation where a child is struggling.

      I also second Meg’s suggestions of using play to help her to work through her feelings. Maybe read my The power of play article and also the linked attachment with ideas of power reversal games. Play and laughter is the most powerful way of combating anxiety for people of all ages, especially for children.

    • #10697

      Thank you both so much. I will keep the appointment with the new female dentist (who is always asking if I’m OK during treatments etc so is much more nurturing) and do some role play beforehand.

      Thank you for reading and supporting us!

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