We work with what’s possible to treat our young patients, to ensure they can achieve good oral health and begin their dental experience in a positive way.
Many people are afraid of the dentist. Unfortunately, much of this fear stems from a negative dental experience, typically during childhood. So, what happens when a child of a “dental-phobe” comes to the office? It is important for parents to remember that their anxieties don’t have to also be those of their children. As a dentist who treats many children, I find that parents or siblings who over-share about what is going to happen during the child’s dental appointments can set us up for failure before the child even comes to the office. Being honest with children is important, but they don’t need to know the exact details of what is going to happen.
It is important for the dental team to maintain a positive, upbeat attitude when treating children. This shows the child that the dentist’s office isn’t a scary place. When I see children for an appointment, especially if it is the first time, I like to prepare them by explaining what we will use during the procedure. Describing the procedure, as well as sensations and tastes they will experience, has been found to be very effective in reducing children’s dental anxiety. When giving the child anesthetic, they don’t need to know we’re using a needle. While they may feel some discomfort and react to it, I find that associating this discomfort with a needle makes the child react a lot more negatively than if they do not realize where the discomfort is coming from. Using a topical numbing gel and keeping the needle from the child’s view greatly helps to reduce their fear during this part of the procedure. Positive reinforcement and distraction techniques can help children get through the more difficult parts of the procedure and leave them with a sense of pride and accomplishment.