4 Ways to Help an Anxious Child Through Dental Treatment

4 Ways to Help an Anxious Child Through Dental Treatment
Posted on 01/12/2021

blog20210112Some children are afraid of dental work. A child may handle cleanings and routine work, but their anxiety could become worse if they need more extensive work done like a filling or a tooth extraction. Avoiding the dentist could lead to more problems, so figure out how to help an anxious child and ensure they receive the proper dental care without taking any shortcuts or skipping out on treatment options.

1. Sharing the Dental Chair

The presence of a parent can supply a child with comfort, security, and safety while at the dentist office. Instead of sitting in a chair alone, you can ask to have the child sit on your lap and lay back for the dental treatment. You can wrap your arms around the child and provide a lot of extra comfort as they go through procedures.

When you’re right there with the child, you can offer words of encouragement. You can explain each step of the process so they aren’t surprised by anything that happens. Before going to the dentist, you can practice at home with some dental role play. You can position yourself on a chair to recreate a similar position and go through the process.

The more knowledge you share and comfort you offer, the more you can help reduce anxiety and get through an appointment. Before the appointment, inform the dentist of your plans so the office can accommodate to your needs and provide any help you need.

2. Hospital Dentistry

For more extensive treatments, you may avoid the dental chair all together and rely on a hospital for your dental treatment. Hospital dentistry will provide anesthesia for the child, so they are not awake during the procedure and the whole process is completed without any anxiety, sudden jolts, or interference.

A dentist appointment set at a hospital is made weeks ahead of time to help coordinate with the dentist, hospital, and physician. Because they will go under anesthesia, your child will need a physical from their primary care doctor before the appointment takes place.

A hospital setting could make an anxious child struggle at first, but undergoing the anesthesia will relax their body and could actually speed up the process. The dentist will perform the treatment once the anesthesia has fully kicked in and the doctor does not need to give the child instructions.

The child's mouth will likely be clamped open or held open with special dental mouth pieces. The dentist can easily access the mouth and does not need to worry about the child moving, biting down, or creating other issues.

The child will wake up when the procedure is over, having gone through the process with ease.

3. Sensory Reductions

Part of the anxiety stemming from the dentist often has to do with the sensory overload a child experiences. A dentist office features bright lights, loud noises, and many objects touching a child's mouth. Before your visit, plan ways to reduce the impact on your child’s senses.

For example, you can have a child wear sunglasses to combat the bright lights. You could even take a child shopping to pick out a special pair of sunglasses. You could bring headphones or earplugs to help reduce the noises a child hears. Comforting music can really help a child relax and focus.

You may choose from their favorite songs or go with something like a classical piano arrangement. If you choose earplugs, do not put them in until the child is settled and sitting in the dental chair. A dentist may have specific instructions a child needs to get through the appointment.

If the child uses earplugs or headphones, a dentist may also use hand signals or gentle taps to tell the child if they need to open wide or make any other adjustments.

4. Dentist Office Communication

Going into the dentist office unexpectedly will only create problems for an anxious child. Communication is key to reaching out and reducing anxiety. You can make the office aware of your child's anxiety, but you should do it over the phone and at a location where your child cannot hear you.

If a child hears you talking about their anxiety, they may become more anxious. When you set up the expectations ahead of time, the staff can provide comforting ways to help ease a child into an appointment. When you talk ahead of time, you can reduce fears for the child and receive extra details about the process.

When you know what to expect, you can set expectations and make everything go smoothly. A dentist office may have ways to help calm the child. For example, a child may feel calmer with a weighted blanket placed over them. A child may get to hold and squeeze a special stuffed animal through the duration of the appointment.

Contact us at Dentistry For Children & Adolescents to help plan out all of your child's dental needs. We've dealt with patients of all kinds and can help set up a plan to ensure your child's dental treatments go smoothly.


Dentistry for Children & Adolescents

  • Edina Office - 7373 France Ave. S., Suite 402, Edina, MN 55435 Phone: 952-831-4400
  • Burnsville Office - 14050 Nicollet Ave., Suite 100, Burnsville, MN 55337 Phone: 952-435-4102
  • Eden Prairie Office - 6385 Old Shady Oak Road, Suite 150, Eden Prairie , MN 55344 Phone: 952-932-0920

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