How to Deal with Anxious Children during Dental Treatment?

Its a common belief among many individuals that being “good with people” is an inborn art and owes little to science or training. It is true that some individuals have a more open deposition and can relate well to others (Figure 1).

Figure 1
Figure 1

However, there is no logical reason why all of us shouldn’t be able to put young patients at their ease and show that we are interested in their problems.

It is particularly important for dentists to learn how to help people relax, as failure to empathize and communicate will result in disappointed patients and an unsuccessful practising career.

Thus effective communication = good for both patients and dentists.

  • Anxious and Uncooperative Children

Dental anxiety should concern us as a profession because it not only prevents many potential patients from seeking care but it also causes stress to the dentists undertaking dental treatment.

In order to know the management, we have to define anxiety. As per to Kent who reported that anxiety is “a vague unpleasant feeling accompanied by a premonition that something undesirable is going to happen”. If, for example, a person is anxious, then she/he will act in a particular manner. A person will avoid visiting the dentist. Thus, anxiety should be seen as a multi-factorial problem made up of a number of different components, all of which can exert an effect.

  • Helping Anxious Patients to Cope with Dental Care

A number of theories have been suggested in an effort to explain the development of anxiety. Uncertainly about what is to happen is certainly a factor, a poor past experience with a dentist could upset a patient, while others may learn anxiety responses from parents, relations, or friends.

A dentist who can alleviate anxiety or prevent it from happening in the first place will always be popular with patients. Clearly, the easiest way to control anxiety is to establish an effective preventive programme so that children do not require any treatment. In addition to an effective preventive regimen it is important to establish a trusting relationship, listening to child’s specific worries and concerns. Every effort must be taken to ensure that any treatment is pain-free. All too often we forget that local analgesia requires time and patience. With the use of a topical anaesthetic paste and slow release of the anaesthetic solution.

Children are not “little adult”, they are vulnerable and afraid of new surroundings so effective time management is important.

The majority of young children have very little idea of what dental treatment involves and this will raise anxiety levels. Most children will cope if given friendly reassurance from the dentist, but some patients will need a more structured programme.

One such structured method is the tell-show-do technique. As its name implies it centers on three phases:

  1. Tell: explanation of procedures at the right age/education level.
  2. Show: demonstrate the procedure.
  3. Do: following on to undertake the task.

Now i want to hear from you!

What are the procedures that you follow to reduce anxiety among peadiatric patients?

I read each & every comment.

Haider Maitham, DDS

Reference: Oxford Medical Publications of Peadiatric Dentistry (Third Edition). Edited by: Richard R.Welbury, Monty S.Duggal, and Marie-Therese Hosey.


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