What If My Kid Freaks Out

Disclosure:: This post is sponsored by Lafayette Pediatric Dentistry and authored by Dr. Anita Gouri.

“What if my kid freaks out?”

This is one of the most common questions I get asked when a parent is told their child needs dental work, and a very common reason parents don’t start dental visits at all when their child is young. We are here to help you!! Let me discuss the many ways we have surprised parents about how easy a dental visit can be, whether it’s for extensive dental work or a routine cleaning.

It’s all about (your child’s) perspective.

Literally, the smallest of differences in approach can make the biggest impact. Our staff and doctors are highly trained to adapt all of our procedures and explanations to a child’s level of understanding. We don’t show or describe anything that may look scary to a child. Things such as sharp dental tools or needles are used outside of the line of a child’s vision, while being described as a “tooth counter” or “sleepy juice.” Other tools like our suctions and water syringes are shown to the patient in a non-scary way first, and introduced as our friends “Mr. Thirsty” and “Mr. Water.” You may be skeptical about this tactic’s efficacy, but after 12+ years of experience in this field, I’m here to tell you that it WORKS. The majority of our patients don’t even know they received a “shot” of anesthetic because of the way we administer and mask it.

The art of distraction

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve entertained patients with the silliest of stories about a television show we both like, or a routine trip to the store! Sometimes, it’s a simple matter of describing every detail of picking out my favorite pizza ingredients that seems to capture just enough of a child’s attention. Additionally, a classic showing of “The Grinch” on our overhead TV always helps:)

What if that’s not enough?

We understand that these tactics may only take us so far. Dental work can be unpleasant because it is, in fact, a type of surgery—that you’re expected to undergo fully awake. There are very few other specialties that are like this. So sometimes, there’s no way to sugarcoat things when there is a true dental anxiety, and for children, dental work can be especially difficult to comprehend.  Nitrous Oxide can help sedate and keep your child calm at dental visits. That is why we offer a variety of options to help things not be too overwhelming for a child, Nitrous Oxide Gas to help calm your child at dentistespecially one who needs extensive dental work. “Giggle gas,” or nitrous oxide, is very effective in helping children relax, and can even aid in calming a hypersensitive gag reflex. Sometimes, however, the gas is not adequate because a child may find it hard to breathe through their nose while their mouth is wide open for the dental work. So we also offer an oral medication for your child to drink that is very mild, does not put your child to sleep, and has a proven track record of safety. It simply “takes the edge off” and helps a child relax while getting dental treatment. Many of our parents have been very happy with this route, and tell us “I wish we had these options when I was young!”

In rarer cases where extreme anxiety, special health care needs, or very young age make conscious sedation impossible, full sedation under anesthesia, with certified medical anesthesia specialists, is also a service we provide.

All of these options are recommendations we make with full parental involvement, medical monitoring, and informed consent. We always want to do what’s best for your child but within your comfort level.

What you can do (and not do) before a dental visit.

We, as parents, are naturally inclined to project emotions from our personal experiences directly onto our child, and it is common for many to have adverse emotions about visiting the dentist. The most important step in bringing a child to the dentist is to act as though it’s like going to the store—there should be no reason for a child to suspect anything scary or painful before they’ve even started their appointment. Sadly, many children we see come in crying because an older brother or adult decided to share a particularly detailed account of a bad dental experience they may have had. Not kidding—this happens quite frequently! We recommend prepping your child, but with a “less is more” approach. The more details you offer, the more questions they may ask that you may not know how to answer. We recommend talking to your child about what to expect by using phrases similar to these:

For a checkup/first visit:

“This nice lady is going to make your teeth sparkle!”

“The dentist is going to count your teeth and make sure they are healthy.”

“The dentist is going to take pictures of your teeth to check your beautiful smile.”

“You get a new toothbrush and a prize when you get your teeth cleaned!”

For dental work:

“Your tooth has a bobo, and the dentist is going to paint it with special tooth paint to make sure it doesn’t make you feel bad later.”

“Your tooth is a little sick, so the dentist is going to rub some medicine on it to make it feel better. You also get to smell some really cool bubble-gum air and watch a movie at the same time!”

Keeping things simple is best. Let us take care of the rest. ????

There are also plenty of great books we recommend, all available on Amazon, to help educate your child about what to expect for their first visit:

Amazon books recommended by Dr. Gouri before first dental visitStart early, and keep it up.

Our goals are always to create a positive dental experience, as well as ensure your child is happy to return for all subsequent visits. For this, familiarity is key. Many parents who have had upsetting experiences at the dentist as children often postpone dental care for their child, thinking it will be a traumatic experience. A lack of routine dental care results in a host of oral health problems for life. Our mission is to start early in creating positive and normal associations with the dentist from the beginning. The most comfortable of our patients are the ones who start seeing us very early, no later than age 1 as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Pediatric Dentistry. Many parents are shocked by this. “That early? He’s gonna freak out!” Don’t worry, we’ve got this.

Crying kid at the dentist it is normalHappy child at the dentist for first time

Both of these reactions are normal for a dental visit.

Contact Lafayette Pediatric Dentistry with any questions! Our number, 337-981-9242, is answered 24 hours! Additionally you can visit our website, LafayettePediatricDentistry.com, to book an appointment or find out more info on other dental topics!

***COVID-19 UPDATE :: Lafayette Pediatric Dentistry is excited to be open again and accepting calls for appointments! Click HERE to see all safety protocols in place.***

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Lafayette Pediatric Dentistry
Lafayette Pediatric Dentistry is one of Acadiana’s premier pediatric dental practices, specializing in treating infants to adolescents. We are a boutique-style office that is known for quality, customized care for your child, focusing on making the dental experience fun, comfortable, and fear-free! Dr. Anita J Gouri has had extensive training in laser dentistry, sedation/hospital dentistry, and special needs dentistry. She is also one of the area’s recommended providers for diagnosis and treatment of tongue and lip ties. She graduated from the LSU School of Dentistry in 2006, completed her residency in pediatric dentistry at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington DC in 2008, and became a board certified diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry in 2009. She has been practicing in Lafayette for over 11 years. Dr. Gouri, her husband Brian, and their two children enjoy travel, Saints football, good food and good friends.


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