Nearly 20 percent of school age children fear the dentist. When a child is afraid of the dentist, providing treatment is a challenge. While dental anxiety is problematic for the dentist, it can also be harmful to the patient. If a patient’s fear and anxiety keep him or her from seeking dental treatment, maintaining a healthy mouth is nearly impossible. There are strategies that parents and dental professionals can use to manage a child’s anxiety.
5 Ways to Manage a Child’s Dental Anxiety
Generally, children do better when a situation is predictable. For that reason, telling your child what to expect during his or her dental procedure is recommended. This is especially important if your child is afraid of the dentist.
Some children may find it difficult to understand complicated verbal explanations, in cases such as these, role-play is helpful. At Espinal & Willis – Carolinas Center for Advanced Dentistry, we take advantage of the tell-show-do method.
The Tell-Show-Do Method in Pediatric Dentistry
Once parents have explained to their child what he or she can expect during the dental procedure, we reinforce the predictability factor by using the tell-show-do method.
Step One – Tell
We tell the child what is going to happen in terms he or she will understand.
Step Two – Show
We show the child the process before beginning the procedure.
Step Three – Do
We begin the procedure once the child understands the process.
2. Parental Involvement
If our dental professionals recognize that a child is feeling a substantial amount of distress, they may request that a parent accompany his or her child during the dental exam or procedure. Although the issue of parental presence during medical and dental procedures can be slightly controversial, many parents already have strategies to help calm their child; furthermore, some children do feel reassured when their parents are present. Additionally, the clinician can model the child’s procedure on the parent. Using the parent as a model accomplishes two things: the child obtains the information he or she needs to know what will happen during the procedure and the parent models the behavior expected of the child during the procedure.
Distraction is another approach that is useful in minimizing anxiety. Distraction methods may include allowing the child to continue playing with a toy or holding a conversation with the child.
Initially, our dental professionals use pleasant, child-oriented topics to distract children and build rapport with them. However, once the procedure begins, the child is unable to participate in the conversation: If a parent is in the room, the conversation can shift from the child to the parent. Again, the topic will be child-friendly so as to keep the patient engaged.
Other forms of distraction include visualization techniques (a happy memory), tasks (counting the tiles on the ceiling), television programs and video games.
4. Relaxation Techniques
A child who feels anxious or states that he or she feels anxious can use relaxation techniques to decrease anxiety.
Common Relaxation Techniques:
- Asking the child to blow bubbles through a wand (commercially purchased bottles of bubbles).
- Deep-breathing exercises involving deep inhalation followed by slow exhalation.
- The systematic tensing and relaxing of muscles.
Praise and small rewards like stickers and baseball cards can be useful in encouraging cooperation. Positive reinforcement can be used frequently, especially with younger children. The use of tokens throughout the procedure as the child cooperates is beneficial. Once the dental procedure is complete, the child can turn the tokens in for a prize.
At Espinal & Willis – Carolinas Center for Advanced Dentistry, our dentists and dental hygienists are experienced in caring for children who are anxious about receiving dental care; therefore, we take the time to explain what we will be doing, the sensations and sounds that he or she should expect throughout the procedure. If you are looking for caring, dedicated and child-friendly dental professionals in Rock Hill, SC, contact our office today.
Contact Espinal & Willis – Carolinas Center for Advanced Dentistry today to schedule your dental cleaning and checkup. We look forward to serving you. Call us at 803.327.4166 today!