Helping the Anxious Child
There are some children that may worry about the prospect of coming to a dental visit. For many it is the fear of the unknown, the fear of meeting new people and the fear of coming to a new environment. For others there may be past experiences at medical offices or even the stories of classmates that have them worried. Dr. Smith has over thirty years of experience and he has the training and know-how to recognize these types of dental anxieties to ensure that visits are as stress-free and comfortable as possible.
Keeping a child relaxed and comfortable is often achieved using several techniques. One of the most effective is the tell-show-do approach. First, the procedure is explained step-by-step. Next, the instrument or procedure is demonstrated to the patient. Finally, the procedure is performed slowly, while the patient watches in a mirror. Should any discomfort arise, the patient is instructed to raise their hand as a signal for us to stop, giving them a sense of control. This can demystify a procedure and help a child understand they can interrupt treatment if they are feeling any discomfort.
Other effective techniques include distraction methods, praise for good behavior and modeling, which pairs anxious children with more cooperative patients of a similar age.
The Role of the Parent
Many parents wonder if it is best to accompany their child to the treatment area. This is handled on a case-by-case basis and depends on the needs and anxiety-level of the child. For infants and young children, we usually recommend that parents accompany their child in the operatory. This often keeps them at ease and makes them feel more confident during the appointment. As patients become more familiar with the office, we find they often do well on their own.
Occasionally, children will present behavior problems that require the parent to remain present during treatment. These issues can often be managed with an assertive tone and clear directions or in some cases, gentle restraint to avoid injury to the patient. Mild sedation may also be recommended, particularly with very anxious children.