It is not uncommon for a child to suffer from dental anxiety. In fact, up to 19.5% of school age children are afraid of dentists. It is important to find ways to combat dental anxiety in a child so that receiving optimal dental care is not avoided. There are several behavioral strategies that are helpful in managing a child with dental anxiety, but many dental practices also offer sedation dentistry as well. Sedation dentistry includes methods that are completely safe for kids and can help them get through a necessary dental procedure.
Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is commonly used on pediatric dental patients who have a mild or moderate anxiety. This form of sedation dentistry gently eases their fears so that they can relax and get the dental care they need in a comfortable manner. Nitrous oxide is mixed with oxygen and is delivered through a small mask over the nose. Your child will be asked to breathe through the nose only. As the gas begins to work, the child gradually becomes less agitated and nervous.
The effects of nitrous oxide are mild. It is safe and quickly eliminated from the body. Your child remains awake and can continue to interact with the dentist. When the gas is turned off, the effects wear off very quickly. The dentist will give your child oxygen for a few minutes after treatment, which helps flush out any remaining gas.
If you prefer not to use sedation methods, there are other ways that can help your anxious child. In Dentistry Today, Lisa A. Efron, PhD, and Jeffrey A. Sherman, DDS suggest several behavioral strategies for parents and dental professionals to follow in attempting to calm a child who has dental anxiety. They recommend the following tactics, among others, to reduce pediatric dental phobia:
- Information – Children prefer the predictable. Simply telling your child what to expect at their dental appointment can help calm their fears.
- Relaxation—Physically relaxing a child in the dental chair is effective for dental anxiety. Deep breathing exercises or using soothing audiotapes can release tension.
- Distraction – Distracting a child from what the dentist is actually doing is a great way to combat dental fear. These methods can range from using a TV screen to play a favorite movie to asking the child to count the ceiling tiles or remember a funny story.
Gilreath Family Dentistry makes it a priority to create a positive dental experience for your child. They offer sedation dentistry and have a team of friendly professionals that will ensure your child is as relaxed as possible. Dental phobia, at any age, should never be an excuse to refuse dental care.
Posted on behalf of Dr. Paul Gilreath IV,