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Pediatric dentists focus on the care of the child, not just the child's teeth. Pediatric dentists can help to ease a child's anxiety about dental treatment.

Managing fears is extremely important because it can shape your child's views about dental visits. Maintaining good oral hygiene and bringing your child to the dentist at an early age can set the stage for a lifetime of positive dental experiences. Having regular dental checkups along with proper homecare reduces dental anxiety in children. They need less emergency treatment and often have less painful symptoms.

Managing anxiety will be different for each child. Older children may not necessarily be less nervous or afraid than younger ones. Your dentist should work with your child to make the experience as pleasant as possible.

The variance in children’s dental anxiety is best explained by a child’s dental experiences and attitude factors, and the child’s personality and other behavioral factors.

Some coping techniques that a pediatric dentist may use include:

  • Reducing the parent's anxiety — Much of a child's fear comes from his or her family. When you reduce anxiety in the parent, you reduce anxiety in the child.
  • "Tell, show, do." — The dentist tells a child what is about to happen. Then he or she shows the child the instruments and how they will be used. Then the procedure is done.
  • Speaking calmly — The dentist uses a soothing voice to calm the child.
  • Modeling — The child is allowed to watch an older sibling receiving non-traumatic and successful dental treatment. The child will model his or her behavior after the way the sibling behaves.
  • Sedation — Whenever possible, pediatric dentists manage anxiety without medicine. However, some children may need some type of sedation. The types of sedation may include closely monitored in office administration of nitrous oxide gas (laughing gas), and certain oral medications given before the visit. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry also endorses deep sedation or general anesthesia on “select” pediatric patients in appropriately equipped and staffed facilities.

Some children may be unable to accept treatment in the dental office. This may include very young children and those with very advanced disease. These children may need to have their dental treatment performed under general anesthesia in a hospital.


Last updated March 31, 2021



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