Distraction Can Be Your Child’s Best Friend
Have you ever tried to do the "honesty about everything" with small children? How did it go for you? Did your four-year-old understand Santa or the details about where babies come from? It may go well, but usually doesn't. Child development varies so much from year to year during those early years so we have no know what they will and won't understand.
So why would you try to explain "everything" the dentist is planning on doing to them during treatment?
I had a friend who brought his young son in to see me. Our families knew each other outside of the dentist/patient relationship. The dad would tell his son, "Now Paul's just going to stick a little needle in your mouth and it will only sting for a few seconds and then it will all be over."
With a dirty look/glare from me that would stop most parents in their tracks, my friend just kept on and on about "drilling a little hole in your tooth" or whatever it is we were doing that day. Seriously? I mean SERIOUSLY?
I actually had a little routine with younger kids where I (almost) always succeeded in distracting the dickens out of them so they had no idea what was going on. A little magic cream (topical anesthetic gel) with a decent amount of wait-time until it actually worked, followed by that little shot my big-mouthed friend had blabbed about... all while telling about some cartoon I had recently seen (and half the time I was making that up as I went). Didn't matter. It distracted the child enough to do what I had to do (in their best interest) and get them ready for the rest of treatment.
And if I got that far without causing them discomfort, the rest of it was just talking about something else while they wondered why their lip or tongue felt weird. The better the story-telling, the better the child's experience. Keep that up through a whole procedure and you can successfully do a filling on a child, or worse, a root canal, or even pull a tooth. They really don't care as long as they're pain-free and distracted.
Distraction is one of the secret formulas for having happy children receive quality dental work. And if that doesn't work, there's always laughing gas and the like.
This little video is a prime example of distraction, even though the kid starts out scared and crying. Look at the drastic change that comes over him when he realizes the "event" is over.
So next time you're thinking of being truthfully inclusive of all details before you take your child for dental care, even a little checkup, please STOP... then consider their age, their developmental level, and even just their state of mind that day. Sometimes not knowing is the best kind of therapy.
And distraction works for adults too in most cases, just in case you were wondering.
And just for fun, I've included this last video. I always wanted to pull a baby tooth using a rocket, and here somebody did it (I don't think the dental board would have looked too kindly on me doing it that way behind my office). Even though the kid knows what's happening, it's still a pretty good way to distract a worried mind (but please don't try this at home).