3 Key Ways to Quell Anxiety in Pediatric Dentistry
Many children experience feelings of fear or anxiety when it comes time for a trip to the dentist. Fortunately, there are a number of things that can be done to help minimize such emotions. If you have a family dental practice and would like to learn more about quelling dental anxiety, read on. This article will discuss three tactics sure to yield positive results.
At all ages of life, there is a strong correlation between mental anxiety and somatic distress. In other words, one of the best ways to help alleviate a child's dental anxiety is to encourage physical relaxation. Verbally guide the child through a breathing exercise, emphasizing slow and deep breaths. If the child is having trouble with such an exercise, try providing them with a bubble wand. The act of blowing bubbles will encourage deep breathing without the child being aware of it.
Likewise, consider utilizing guided recordings. Such recordings will walk the child through a series of relaxation exercises, often accompanied by soothing music. These exercises will address all of the muscle groups, often starting with the feet and progressively working upward to the head. By that time, the child's anxiety is usually greatly diminished.
Children are much like adults in that they respond positively to clearly presented information. This is especially true when dealing with mysterious and potentially scary things like a trip to the dentist. Presenting the child with an accurate—if somewhat simplified—account of the procedure at hand will help to keep their distress at a minimum.
One widespread and effective method of achieving this aim is called the tell-show-do technique. This technique begins with a verbal explanation of the particular procedure. Always be sure to use language that the child can easily understand, avoiding more complex—and thus intimidating—terminology. Next, use a model or puppet do demonstrate the procedure you have just explained. By the time you come to the "do" phase, the child should be markedly more relaxed.
In some cases a child's anxiety will persist, even after you have utilized an information technique such as tell-show-do. In that case, positive distraction may prove a more effective means of dispelling anxiety. Allow the child to select a toy from the waiting room and bring it with them to the examination. The presence of a familiar object tends to promote relaxation. Similarly, you may find it effective to engage in conversation with the child about a non-dental topic. By establishing rapport and redirecting the child's thoughts to an enjoyable topic, you can often ensure a successful and anxiety-free visit.