You know when Dad’s been hiding a toothache. He’s grumpy, refuses his favourite peanut brittle and is rubbing his cheek.
You’ve tried mentioning it casually – ‘might be time to visit the dentist, Dad,’ only to be met with the universal ‘she’ll be right.’ Short of carrying him there, we’ve come up with some ideas for approaching this delicate Dad problem.
The best place to start is getting to the bottom of why Dad’s refusing to go to the dentist. Here is a list of what might be going on in Dad’s head:
Dad’s in denial
This is a typical head in the sand response – we all do it. Ignoring the problem makes no rational sense but it acts a defense which keeps reality out. While Dad’s in denial, he doesn’t have to go one-on-one with the truth.
In Dad’s day, doctors and dentists were on a pedestal. You didn’t disturb these health gurus unless you were on death’s door. In that context, his ‘little toothache’ is nothing to bother with. It may only be when his teeth fall out that Dad would consider knocking on the dentist’s door.
Too proud to complain
Dad might be embarrassed. He may be a proud man and having a weakness, even if it’s just his teeth, may affront his dignity and cause him to avoid doing something about it.
Ageing can be cruel. Dad’s body might’ve started to let him down and set limitations on his energy. Problem teeth and gums are just an extension of an overall feeling of losing control. Refusing to visit the dentist means control stays with Dad.
Dad might already be an anxious man. Even though going to the dentist may seem straight forward to you, he may have had horrible dental experiences in his time. He may associate it with painful, dated procedures.
What to do next:
If you force the issue, Dad’s likely to go into the shed and throw away the key. Instead, be gentle and approach things slowly. You can always revisit the subject later once Dad’s had a chance to go away and think about it. When you bring it up again, he may be ready to hear it.
Dad’s reluctance may make no sense to you so rationalising the issue won’t work, and may make him dig his heels in further
Double up your appointment
Ask Dad if you can talk to the dentist instead. That way you take the first step which may cushion the blow. It may also be comforting to book an appointment together, drive there in the same car, have back-to-back consultations and make a morning of it.
Lead with love
Instead of spelling out how ridiculous you think Dad’s reasons are, tell him he’s important to you and how making sure he’s healthy is your first priority. Let him know the state of his teeth is worrying and that going to get them checked would be a huge relief for you.
Whatever the problem and the solution, give Dad patience and understanding to get to a happy teeth solution.
Your National Dental Care practitioner is fully trained and experienced in dealing with people who suffer anxiety about dental visits and will be happy to help.