Preparing Children for Their First Trip to the Dentist
Taking a child to the dentist isn’t a day at the beach. That’s why pediatric dentists strive to create a welcoming environment aimed at getting children relaxed for their appointment.
From decorations of popular cartoon characters or superheroes, to play areas that keep children occupied as they wait, there are many steps taken by dentists to make their patients feel at home in the waiting room.
But once the appointment time comes around, chaos can ensue. Children get uneasy as they’re guided to a back office full of scary “machines” and drilling noises. It can be a challenge just to get them to sit still for the duration of their cleaning.
Thankfully, modern pediatric dentistry has evolved and there are many innovative tools to aid dental practices today. The STA Single Tooth Anesthesia System, a safe and effective in-office anesthesia system, is proving to be a great alternative to needles for many young patients.
Roughly 51 million school hours a year are lost because of dental disease and other issues. By making the process easier on parents and their children, the dental experience will become less chaotic and smoother from start to finish.
Pediatric dentistry is finding new ways to make the dental process easier on young children and their families.
Elements of a Good Pediatric Dental Visit
What constitutes a successful pediatric dental visit? There are a number of important factors that go into making a child’s visit as smooth as possible.
Dental Office Environment
In addition to having toy or activity areas as well as a television with kids’ shows or movies playing, dental offices should exude a feeling of safety at all times. This is important for children of course, but also critical for many parents who are taking their kids to the dentist for the first time.
Instruments and Procedures
Communication is paramount for a positive experience. Dentists and staff must articulate procedures in a disarming tone that will alleviate any sense of anxiety.
Gadgets and instruments are initially viewed as scary and invasive, but they should be presented in a “cool” manner to help children feel less threatened and frightened.
All office staff should be trained on how to deal with children. This is obviously one of the most essential measures to undertake to ensure a safe and productive environment for all.
Staff must be well-equipped with the patience and temperament to handle children who like to act out, and they must strive to make the dental experience a breeze.
Possible Issues with Dental Care for Kids with Special Needs
Children with special needs face an entirely different suite of problems. Many have issues eating or chewing food due to limitations in their oral motor skills. Many experience gum disease, tooth decay, or other oral trauma at higher rates than the average population.
Children with special needs typically have a lot of sensitivity in their oral cavity, which makes it especially important to work with a pediatric dentist who is sensitive and aware of these challenges.
It can be a tall order just to get a special needs child to use a toothbrush and toothpaste properly. Many special needs children feel physically unable to do this due to their limited motor skills, or they feel threatened or scared whenever someone tries to force them to use a toothbrush.
Some of these children may have a diet that’s high in sugars which can lead to significant oral development problems and cavities, making it even more important that they receive proper dental care on a regular basis.
If it is too difficult to give a special needs child the right treatment, then it may be necessary to use sedation dentistry.
So, how can pediatric dentists properly accommodate children with special needs? As we described before, it’s important to provide a welcoming environment to the child that makes them feel 100% safe and secure. But it also might be necessary to invite the child over for a pre-appointment visit.
Children with special needs have a more challenging time acclimating to their surroundings. A pre-appointment visit will help give the child a sense of familiarity when it comes time to visit for their actual appointment. Kids can freely start playing in the main area and then gradually transition into the office rooms.
There’s also the consideration of accessibility for children with serious mobility limitations. Dental offices should be equipped with enough space where the wheelchair can safely fit within the examination room.
Preventative dental care efforts are also an important step towards keeping special needs children out of the dentist’s office to begin with. It’s the job of smart pediatric dentistry to ensure that the proper messaging is being articulated from physicians down to the kids. Comprehensive pediatric dentistry includes educating families as well as performing quality care.
Methods of Pediatric Dental Anesthesia
Dental care for kids is about making the necessary accommodations, so that a) the child can be properly cared for, and b) the child feels comfortable and relaxed for their experience.
Pediatric dental anesthesia safety has evolved over the years and is one of the safest and most readily used methods among pediatric dentists. Local anesthetics block the nerve impulses that transmit pain signals and it is one common way to prevent children from feeling pain. While the most common method is probably general anesthesia, which is used for major dental procedures, including tooth extractions or restorations.
Pros of Pediatric Dental Anesthesia
Anesthesia is a safe and effective way to reduce sensations of pain during a dental procedure, and negative outcomes are extremely rare.
There are also multiple levels to sedation, which can be carefully selected based on the specific child’s needs. For example, nitrous oxide is a commonly used sedative that offers only mild sedation. It’s so mild that children usually don’t go to sleep, they just feel relaxed enough for the surgeon to proceed. Oftentimes, this is all it takes.
Then there is general anesthesia which will keep the child 100% asleep and pain-free for the duration of the procedure, helping the oral surgeon complete the work without any feeling of invasiveness for the child. Anesthesia is safely administered in a dental office setting as long as it is specially equipped.
Cons of Pediatric Dental Anesthesia
The biggest disadvantage in pediatric dental anesthesia has been a lack of transparency. Some physicians have historically been poor at communicating the types of sedation available and their effects on the child.
Thankfully, new national guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry have helped improve this transparency problem. These guidelines call for certified anesthesiologists and trained emergency response specialists to be on hand in dentists’ offices when children are put under sedation.
The other historical con of pediatric dental anesthesia has been a lack of specificity in usage. Anesthesia was typically used to sedate the entire mouth, whereas new technology allows for hyper-specific sedation to occur.
Evolution of Pediatric Dental Technology
The STA Single Tooth Anesthesia system is a huge leap forward for more effective sedation. This is especially important among more sensitive groups like young children and those with special needs.
Single tooth anesthesia avoids numbing the entire area around a damaged tooth, instead focusing on the individual tooth being operated on. It is the perfect solution for young patients who are scared or nervous about shots and needles.
Pediatric dental clinics have begun adopting this technology for pediatric and teenage dentistry alike, but this technology can truly benefit anyone who is looking for a safe alternative to traditional sedation measures.
Those traditional sedation measures often kept children out of school for the remainder of the day following a procedure, whereas single tooth anesthesia prevents them from missing any time after the oral work is done.
The tool itself features automatic control over flow rates and pressure throughout the surgery allowing precision regardless of the patient’s needs.
The Benefits and Risks or Pediatric Dental Anesthesia
Pediatric and orthodontic dentistry is incredibly safe and effective. There are very few risks or concerns any parent should have prior to approving usage of dental anesthesia, especially when it’s the latest technology being used (like single tooth anesthesia).
On the other hand, the benefits of using such pediatric dental anesthesia are numerous. Children of all ages can receive better, safer, and more hassle-free treatment thanks to the proper level of sedation.
And of course, sedation is not required to complete most procedures, but it’s a very safe and effective option when needed.
By embracing the latest and greatest in pediatric dental technology, pediatric dentists are improving the overall dental hygiene for kids by the day.
As more practices embrace these amazing tools, like the STA Single Tooth Anesthesia system for single tooth anesthesia, the quality of pediatric dental care will only get better.