Parents often want to know how long to wait before feeding their children following fluoride treatment. This procedure is usually done to remineralize the teeth and strengthen them against cavities or decay. The time before patients can eat or drink may depend on the fluoride varnish used. When it comes down to food choices, the…
Behavior Management for the Kids Dental Office Visit
Going to the dentist is no one’s idea of a good time, but a kids dental office visit can be particularly challenging. Getting probed and prodded by sharp objects and having to hold still for X-rays is unpleasant and stressful for even the most calm dental patient, much less for children who do not understand what is going on and have problems sitting still. How can parents help children behave for the dentist and get the benefit of a thorough exam and cleaning?
Choose the right dentist
Taking children to a pediatric dentist instead of one accustomed to dealing with adults is a good start. Dentists who have chosen to work with children are more likely to have behavior management techniques at the ready. They also tend to be more patient with young patients who find the experience overwhelming. Look for a dentist who talks in a calm and friendly voice, who explains what is going to happen in a reassuring way and who is skilled in distraction and redirection. The same should be true of the dental hygienists who will be working with children.
A kids dental practice may have the parent sit in the chair and put the child on the parent’s lap to be examined, so that Mom or Dad can provide comfort and gentle restraint. Another option is a knee-to-knee exam, where instead of sitting in a chair, children sit in a parent’s lap with their head in the dentist’s lap. Keeping the heavy apron on after X-rays are done may provide some calming pressure. Dentists may use nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to calm a child for dental work; if major work is needed, sedation may be an option. Some dentists use a papoose board to provide significant restraint, although its use is controversial.
Waiting to be called
Kids dental practices should have waiting rooms that are kid-friendly, reducing anxiety before the appointment and making sure children do not use up all their behavioral resources before the visit even begins. Going to the same friendly place every time can also make young patients calmer and more ready for the exam. The child will remember the dentist and other staff members as friends, which contributes to good behavior.
Preparing at home
There are things parents can do before even leaving for the dentist’s office that can help with children’s behavior there. Talk with children in advance about what the visit will be like, using books on the subject to make it more familiar and less scary. Bring along comforting objects that a child can safely hold during the exam; a weighted stuffed animal may be particularly useful. Arrive for the appointment on time to avoid any long waits. Most importantly, attend to brushing and flossing conscientiously between visits so there is not a lot for the dentist and hygienist to do in the office.
Like adults, kids probably will not consider a visit to the dentist to be a highlight of their year. However, with a little advance work and planning, parents can keep it from being the worst day ever.
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