Preparing for a Dental Visit
Children are curious and will want to know what will happen when they arrive at the dental clinic. Remember to be honest with your child. Stay relaxed and calm in discussing dentistry with your child. If you are not sure what will happen at your child’s next appointment, tell your child that you are not exactly sure what the dentist will do to fix his/her teeth, but the dentist will explain everything when you get to the clinic. Also tell them that the dentist likes children and does not wish to hurt anyone. The dentist tries to give you a bright healthy smile or keep you from having any toothaches.
Feel free to bring your child to our clinic for a tour; just ask when scheduling your appointment. One of our goals in the dental clinic is to help children cope with and understand how to be a good patient. Another goal is to make children happy and less fearful while receiving dental care. Kids are special to us, and we want them to know it.
Common Dental Procedures
During dental examinations, the dentist will examine your child’s teeth, jaws, and face. Usually the child’s teeth are cleaned with a rubber cup or a toothbrush and fluoride is administered. Sometimes x-rays are taken to assess the roots and jawbone structures and seek out hidden caries.
During dental restorations, teeth may be filled with white or silver fillings. Teeth can also be capped with stainless steel crowns or removed if the decay is extensive or the tooth is abscessed. Often, we administered nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, to help the child remain calm. We also may administer local anesthesia that numbs the teeth. We apply a numbing agent before the injection and do it slowly so that the discomfort is minimized. Sedation and medical immobilization are available for extremely apprehensive children. Other times and circumstances may require general anesthesia wherein the child is totally asleep and does not feel anything. Ask the dentist which is best for your child.
Parents’ Involvement in the Dental Visit
Parents with children 3 years of age or younger are encouraged to come into the dental exam room with their child. However, we have found that children who are older than 3 years generally do much better without their parent in the room. This may come as a surprise to some parents, but studies support the idea that children are not any worse off without their parents. However, we recognize that there are exceptions to this, so please ask if you have any questions or concerns.
Therefore, if you have a child who is older than 3, we strongly encourage you to remain in the waiting room while your child is being seen. Give the dentist a chance to establish some rapport and work exclusively with your child. If the dentist believes your presence will be beneficial to your child, s/he will ask you to come into the dental exam room. Parents of children who are being sedated are not permitted to stay in the dental exam room during the procedure, and must remain seated in the corner of the operatory as a silent observer. The dentist must devote his/her concentration entirely to monitoring your child while providing dental care.
Behavior Guidance Techniques Used During Your Child's Dental Visit
The pediatric dentists and staff at Children's Hospital Colorado specialize in working with children, their oral health and also their behavior during a dental procedure. This means that our specialists are well-versed in the techniques that can make your child feel less afraid and feel less pain. There are several behavior guidance methods used by pediatric dentists that may be used to help your child cope with a dental appointment.
All techniques used at Children's Hospital Colorado are approved by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Some of the techniques are very easy to use in helping the child. For instance, a technique that we use almost all of the time is called "Tell-Show-Do." We tell the child what we are going to do, do a small demonstration of what we are doing, and then do the procedure while repeating the tell-show-do. In other words, we explain and show everything to the child so that they will not have anything to fear. Below are behavior guidance techniques that are approved by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
- Voice control
- Nitrous oxide sedation
- Medical immobilization (papoose board)
- Procedural sedation
- General anesthesia
None of the more advanced techniques are used unless absolutely necessary and only after obtaining permission from the parent. Children's Hospital Colorado emphasizes the importance of providing family-centered care, placing your child and family at the center of all care decisions. If you are unclear of why a specific technique is being used with your child, you are always encouraged to ask the dentist about it.