Because dental visits are sometimes associated with pain, going to see a dentist can cause anxiety for children and for their parents. As a result, instead of going to a dentist at the first hint of pain, parents and children delay seeking treatment.
A study published in the Journal of Dentistry found 83 percent of children visiting a dentist were in pain and 20 percent experienced pain for more than a month. The study concluded children and adolescents often suffer unnecessary symptoms for several weeks before they went to a dentist.
Experienced pediatric dentists have an array of medications and techniques — used alone or in combination — that can reduce or eliminate pain and control anxiety during most dental procedures, notes WebMD.com.
Here are some facts about children and dental pain parents need to know.
Pain can indicate a serious problem
An untreated cavity can cause severe pain and infection, reports aboutkidshealth.ca. “This infection can spread to your child’s face or other areas of their body, making them very sick. A serious infection can also damage the permanent teeth that are developing in the bone just below the baby teeth.”
Most procedures don’t hurt
In pediatric dentistry, the objective is to make the experience pleasant and stress-free. Cleanings, applications of fluoride or sealants, X-rays and even filling smaller cavities normally don’t cause any pain. Sometimes the experience can seem frightening because of the unfamiliar setting, the equipment, the sounds and the tastes. Pediatric dentists and those who work with them are trained to help children be relaxed and comfortable in potentially stressful situations.
Parents can help
Many times, children are nervous about visiting the dentist because they pick up on anxiety exhibited by a parent. An article in dentistrytoday.com explains parents can help children by being calm and modeling appropriate, low-stress behavior. Parents should avoid using words like shot, hurt or pain when talking to children about a dental visit. Parents can tell children the dentist will help them have clean, healthy and strong teeth.
A little fussing is normal and dentists know how to react, explains parents.com. “Let the dental care professionals guide you; they might ask you to stay at a distance or to hold your little one's hand, which will provide comfort and prevent him from grabbing any dental instruments.”
For children who experience severe anxiety or who need dental procedures where more serious pain is likely, many dentists offer an option for sedation.
“Conscious sedation can achieve a minimal, moderate, or even deep suppression of consciousness — after which the child will remember nothing about the procedure,” explains deardoctor.com. Usually, the patient is awake but is totally relaxed.
Conscious oral sedation merely requires a pill. There are no needles or any scary equipment.
If you have a child experiencing tooth pain or simply needs dental care, know that experienced pediatric dentists have the tools and knowledge to eliminate pain and control anxiety during virtually all dental procedures.
Flint Stephens has a master's degree in communication. He writes regularly on business, financial and medical topics.