You know it's important to take your children to the dentist, but for some, a child's dental appointment can be more nerve-wracking for the parent than the child. Although you've been to the dentist plenty of times over the years, you may not always be sure how your child will react, which can make you a little nervous about leaving them alone in the dental operatory.
Whether or not you're allowed to enter the office with your child is a common dental question many parents have -- and there's not always a cut-and-dry answer. The fact is, whether or not a parent or guardian is allowed in the dental operatory often depends on the individual's situation and the dental office's policies, which you should ask about when making your child's appointment. However, most dental offices follow standards when it comes to allowing parents in the room with their child.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents of older children remain in the waiting room when children are brought into the dental operatory. Infants and some young children may benefit from having one of their parents in the operatory with them, but it's usually in a child's best interest to be treated without parental interference. Studies have shown that children over the age of 3 often respond better to dental treatment when their parents aren't in sight.
Of course, we understand that every situation is different, but you may be surprised by what your dentist can handle. Many dentists have schooling and clinical experience in pediatric dentistry, so be sure to ask your family dentistry office about your dentist's background working with younger patients. A dentist who's experienced with children can usually handle many behavioral problems that might arise. By allowing your child to enter the operatory without you, you're placing trust in your dental professionals and teaching your child to do the same.
If you're still concerned about leaving your child alone or if your child has special needs, you may want to consider a pediatric dentist, or pedodontist. Pediatric dentists have advanced training specific to meeting the unique dental needs of children, so you can feel confident that you're leaving your child in excellent hands.
The First Timer
It's recommended that children have their first dental visit by the age of 1. As the new sights and sounds of the dental office can be intimidating for young children, many dentists will let parents accompany their child into the operatory. During the initial visit, your dentist may let your toddler sit on your lap, or next to you, in the dental chair to help put him or her at ease. Some offices allow the parents of older children in the dental operatory during the first visit to a new dentist to familiarize themselves with their surroundings, but may ask them to remain in the waiting room from that point forward.
How you react to your child's dental exam can help or hinder their experience. If you are allowed in the dental operatory, be aware of your emotions and reactions. Remaining positive will encourage your child to do the same, while a negative reaction may create unnecessary dental anxiety.
Have a Little Faith
Keep in mind that dentists need space to do their job. If your child requires a dental procedure, you will most likely be asked to remain in the waiting room. During medical surgery, it's understood that family members are not allowed in the operatory so as to not contaminate the area or disturb the proceedings. Likewise, dentists need their operatory clear of distractions so that they can concentrate on performing dental surgery.
Remember, dentists aren't trying to banish you to the waiting room -- they want you to stay involved in your child's dental care. If you're not allowed back in the dental operatory, ask your dentist what you can expect during and after the procedure. Your dentist can tell you what methods they use to comfort patients and eliminate pain. Not only will it give you peace of mind, but it will help you prepare your child for the visit. Through communication and trust, your child can have a successful dentistry experience, with many more to come.