A foundation of trust and good rapport between a child and his/her dentist is crucial to a positive dental experience and one of the main goals of pediatric dentistry. During routine preventive (cleaning/exam) appointments, a parent’s presence in the room can facilitate communication among the parent, child and dental team members, making the parent an active participant in the ongoing maintenance of the child’s oral health.
The interaction between the child and dentist becomes more complex whenever restorative treatments, such as fillings, are needed. Each child’s age, personality, past dental experiences, the extent of needed treatment and anticipated tolerance is considered. This is when the art of pediatric dentistry has the greatest impact. Before the first restorative appointment, I often discuss with parents the benefits, as well as potential drawbacks, to their involvement in their child’s restorative appointment. We account for the effect a parent’s presence in the treatment room may have on the success of a favorable outcome. As this is an opportunity for the dentist to implement specialized techniques, such as age-appropriate verbiage and deep breathing coaching to help the child tolerate the procedure, it requires a child’s undivided attention. Often well-intentioned parents, especially if they carry their own dental anxiety, unknowingly confuse or complicate these efforts.
Since parents are never prohibited from being in the treatment rooms in our office, if a parent elects to be present, it is helpful for that parent to be a passive participant, allowing the dentist to do the talking with the child. Most children who feel they have “done it on their own,” independent of their parent’s involvement, gain a tremendous sense of self-confidence and trust in the dentist treating them. It then becomes the platform onto which we build a continual positive relationship with the child. It is remarkable that most children can, in fact, tolerate treatment better on their own, which is a testament to their strength and willingness to prove their capabilities when given the chance.