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Pediatric Dental Anxiety 101 For Parents

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The pain associated with a number of dental procedures is often responsible for dental anxiety in patients of all ages. However, this anxiety is considered a more serious problem with young dental patients because it often leads to the cancellation of dental appointments and the underuse of pediatric dental health services.

It is important for parents and/ or caregivers to understand a few basic things about pediatric dental anxiety so that they can help their children overcome their fear of dental visits. The question and answer session below provides vital information that parents and caregivers can use to break down the barrier that is pediatric dental anxiety.

How Do Pediatric Dentists Measure Dental Anxiety?

There are various techniques used to determine how anxious a child is about an upcoming dental procedure. Of these techniques, the self-reporting test is among the most commonly used on young patients.

When using the self-reporting technique, a dental health practitioner will ask the child a number of questions in relation to the upcoming procedure. Practitioners will then use the responses given by the child to gauge how anxious he is using a five-point scale. The higher the score on this scale, the greater the anxiety and vice-versa. In order to get the best results when using this technique, parents/caregivers should talk the child out of hiding their anxiety by giving false responses to the questions asked.

A pediatric dentist may also gauge dental anxiety in a young patient by studying his/her physiological reactions before and/or during a dental procedure. Anxious children will often have their hearts beating at a rate that is significantly higher than normal, they may exhibit muscle tension, as well as abnormal skin temperature.

How Is Pediatric Dental Anxiety Dealt With?

Once it has been established that a child suffers from dental anxiety, several techniques can be used to get the child through a dental procedure.

A pediatric dentist will strive to achieve relaxation in anxious patients by having them undertake a deep-breathing exercise prior to the procedure. Depending on how high the level of anxiety is, the dental health practitioner may take the patient through a procedure known as progressive muscle relaxation. This procedure helps to relax every muscle group within the child's body, thereby relieving anxiety.

During a dental procedure, a pediatric dentist will drive the child's attention away from the procedure at hand so as to make him/her forget about their anxiety. For example, the child may be asked to mention all the car models he saw on the way to the dentist's office.