Be honest about doctor appointments

Child FearsPublished in the PRG Winter Edition 2016

By Dan Gustavson, DDS
Auburn Dental Aesthetics

As the saying goes, “If I had a dollar for…,”  Well, in my case, “If I had a dollar for every time a parent said to their child it’s not going to hurt,” I’d be retired already. But alas, I’m still in the thick of my career, listening to the many stories parents make up (all with good intentions) so their child won’t have a tough time at the dentist, doctor, optometrist, etc. Here’s the rub – you’re making it worse for your child.

As a dentist, I hear stories from adult patients, pouring their hearts out (and it often breaks mine to hear them) about how they neglected their teeth as a child. Maybe their family didn’t go to the dentist regularly and now they are literally and figuratively paying the price for it. Unfortunately, this is reality for about 75% of the people I see every day – for the past 25 years. I keep hoping it will get better, but human nature and procrastination always play a big part in people’s problems in the dental office. I’m sure this is quite true for medical doctors as well, so this subject matter is relevant to health care in general.

Adults, whose parents before them, may have put off much-needed dental treatment until it’s too late. Now they have to go through more extensive procedures to make all well again. Many of these adults can’t help but pass on their own fears, anxieties, and habits to their own children. They don’t know they’re saying the wrong thing about dentists and doctors… but the children are listening.

So, the child arrives at the dentist (or doctor, etc.) with absolute terror in their minds about something they know nothing about, brought on by well-meaning parents. My advice to all of you parents out there: Shhhhhhhhh! Be quiet. Keep your own, or your parents’, issues to yourself and let your child experience the whole health care thing on their own. Most of all – please stop lying to your child about the tetanus shot. It IS going to hurt. So let it be and let the medical staff handle it; then praise your child for being brave. We are blessed with kind, caring staff members who can help anyone and everyone get through anything. Let us do our jobs. We’re good at it.

Let us tell your children that they are going to “feel a pinch” and it’s going to hurt for just a second and it’s done. When we don’t lie to your children, they trust us. When they trust us, they relax. When they relax, they have a good experience. When they have a good experience, they come back. When they come back to our happy, positive environment, they will keep their teeth, eyes, ears, and body healthy for a lifetime with realistic expectations. If any of us, especially mom, dad, or grandparents, lie to them, they will not trust us or you. They will be set-up for a lifetime of health care fears and issues.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for letting honesty and truth help your child get well and stay well!

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