How To Reduce A Child's Anxiety About Dental Fillings
A small cavity may seem like no big deal, but it can be scary and stressful for a child. Fortunately, you and your dentist can help alleviate your child's fears.
Avoid Negative Talk
Now is not the time to bond with your child over your own dental horror stories. With the right dentist, your child will experience no pain, so there is no need to frighten them. Even older children can be frightened, so choose words with care. Avoid saying things about dentists being scary or about how loud and frightening the drill can be. Instead, be upbeat and positive when talking about the upcoming procedure. Answer your child's questions but take care to only do so in a positive light.
Avoiding negative talk does not mean ignoring your child's very real and understandable anxiety and fears. If this is your child's first filling, they may be even more frightened because they aren't sure what to expect. Let your child know that you understand that they are anxious, and then help them articulate their fears so they can be discussed. Never dismiss your child's fears as silly, always take them seriously and provide a calm explanation of what will actually happen. For example, a child may think the dentist uses an actual big power drill to get to a cavity. Explaining that it is a small, special type of drill and not one like the drill in the garage may help reduce their fears.
Your dentist may offer some form of sedation for your child. They won't be put under completely for a routine filling; instead, they will be given a small amount of laughing gas or something similar to help relax them. Not only will this keep them from being overly anxious or feeling discomfort during the procedure, but it will also reduce wiggling and other movements that can make it more difficult to perform the filling. If offered, it's a good idea to accept mild sedation for your child.
Plan for Distraction
After the procedure will likely be the most stressful time for your child. They may be tired and cranky if they were sedated. Their mouth will also be numb and possibly even a bit sore. Plan to distract your child with some low-effort fun, such as a new video to watch or by reading them a story. This way the child can rest and also be distracted from any discomfort in their mouth.
Work with a children's dentist to make sure your child is comfortable during their visit.