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Calming kids fears of the dentist to keep them coming back as adults

Published: Feb. 2, 2022 at 5:51 PM EST
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - Some people dread going to the dentist, but if your experiences are positive as a kid, you might not mind as an adult. Here’s how some dentists say they work to create a positive environment for kids.

Dr. Safaa Ahmed moved here from Texas after falling in love with Vermont, filling a gap after the previous pediatric dentist in Rutland retired as offices were reopening from the pandemic. It left about 5,000 without a dentist.

“I know there is a need here for a pediatric dentist and I just felt that was my calling,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed says it’s not just about oral health but creating a positive environment.

“You don’t want them to have a traumatic experience that will prevent them from coming back as adults and we see that all the time,” Ahmed said.

Dr. Rachel Rivard sees patients of all ages at Community Health Dental in the same building. She says not all kids specifically need a pediatric dentist but it can help some with disabilities, a high level of tooth decay or anxiety.

“One of the keys in pediatric dentistry is distractions from what’s going on. So keeping them occupied with something else is essential,” Rivard said.

One distraction is sunglasses for kids. Another is leaning back and watching the TV that’s right up above them. Hygienists say some kids don’t want to leave because they are so invested in what they are watching.

“I’m doing fillings and I’m doing sealants, everything and they are mesmerized by the TV,” Ahmed said.

Adelyna James, 6, approves of the method.

“I get to lay down and then look up and the TV is just like playing stuff,” Adelyna said with a giggle.

Her mom, Katie, says it’s wonderful having a pediatric dentist in the area again after having a bad experience with another dentist.

“I was worried about her coming into a new dentist and it was just so warm, welcoming and perfect,” Katie James said.

Another patient is 6-year-old William Handfield, who actually likes flossing and says other kids should go to the dentist, too.

“So their teeth don’t rot out of their head,” William explained.

His mom, Ryan, appreciates the care provided.

“It’s a good, healthy atmosphere for all and less stress for parents and the child,” Ryan Handfield said.

The American Dental Association recommends going to a dentist within six months of the first tooth or by the age of 1.

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