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Dental Fear and Anxiety Management in Children

Published on May 08, 2021 and last reviewed on Nov 08, 2021   -  4 min read


Attention to oral health issues are all the more essential when it comes to young adults and children. Ranging from mild to severe dental problems, the child is a victim of pain and dental fear when they have to visit the dentist. Read the article to know how parents and dental doctors can help address these fears by instilling the proper behavior towards dental treatment.

Dental Fear and Anxiety Management in Children


Negligence on behalf of either the child or the parent, ignoring oral health at a young age can result in painful decay and other tooth or gum-related issues. Thus setting a standardized care regimen for the child apart from six-monthly to one-year regular visits to the dentist along with the right behavior management will be helpful in the prevention of dental diseases.

What Are the Common Dental Problems Faced by Kids?

1.Tooth decay:

Tooth decay is common in children and infants on a carbohydrate-rich and sweet diet. Prolonged bottle-feeding and poor oral hygiene may further worsen the decaying process. Also common in children with developmental disabilities and requires extra care in such cases.

2.Halitosis or Bad Breath:

Halitosis is caused by poor oral hygiene and poor periodontal health or gum disease.

3.Deleterious or Damaging Habits:

This includes thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, or lip biting. It can be a damaging and regular problem for children with disabilities and special needs. Appliances designed to prevent these habits will be advised accordingly by your dentist.

4.Teeth Grinding:

Children can grind their teeth unconsciously or consciously. It is also called bruxism, which is also a habit that is found in many adults, especially while sleeping. This increases the force unnaturally on the tooth and results in wearing out and generalized sensitivity of the enamel layer of the tooth.


Sensitive gums and painful infected teeth result mostly from decay or gum infection.

6.Mouth Ulcers and Canker Sores:

Mouth ulcers and canker sores are the most common red lesions seen in the oral cavity.

7.Over-Retained Primary Teeth:

Tooth eruption often depends on genetic factors, muscular action, movement of the facial muscles and jaw growth, and even on certain medications. If the tooth eruption is delayed or inconsistent, then the chances of primary teeth being retained (as they are not able to make way for the permanent teeth to erupt) are more.

8.Dental Fears and Anxiety.

What Are the Impacts of Tooth Decay and Gum Disease In Children?

1. Tooth-bound infections that affect the eruption of permanent teeth.

2. Tooth loss.

3. Pain in the infected tooth leading to emergency restorative or surgical treatment at the dentist's office.

4. Increased prevalence of dental disease in the adolescent age because of childhood risk exposure.

5. Increased vulnerability to infections in other parts of the body like the maxillary sinus, ear canals, and as a sequel of compromised oral hygiene infection, rarely spreading to the neurologic system.

Behavior Management In the Child:

The goals of behavior guidance are to establish patient and dental doctor communication effectively and at the same time address the child's health issues ensuring due cooperation and safety.

The Goals of Behavior Management Are:

The Most Commonly Used Behavior Management Techniques At the Dental Office Are Discussed Below:


By demonstrating the technique by which treatment is going to be done to the child, the dentist explains visually and verbally in the language of the child and alleviates the child's fear and anxiety about the dental check-up or procedure.

Positive Reinforcement and Modeling:

This is positive parental reinforcement and example at home and by the behavior of a parallel-aged child or elder sibling who follows the instructions given by the dentist. This process helps in cooperation and encourages the child mentally—the ideal technique for children aged between 3 to 5 years.


Moving the attention of the child away from the procedure temporarily by distracting them by speech, cartoons, music, or visually engaging them to forget the discomfort of the dental treatment. This process works in uncooperative children as well.

HOME (Hand over Mouth Exercise):

This process is done when the child has to cooperate during dental procedures and to establish cooperation when the child is distressed and resists the dental doctor. The hand is placed over the mouth till the child stops crying and removes it once the child is ready to cooperate. The hand should never be placed over the child's nose, and this is done only with parental consent to handle distressed and uncooperative patients on the dental chair.

Voice Control:

It is used to instruct the child in a voice of authority and to gain the child's attention to the importance of getting dental treatment done. This process is not needed in disabled or emotionally immature children.

Sedation and General Anesthesia:

Anesthesia is amongst the other accessory techniques which are employed only when the child consciously refuses to cooperate for the dental procedures.

Seeking Dental Guidance:

Starting from the age of three, it is imperative to seek dental guidance occasionally every six months. The dental surgeon will examine the child's teeth to find out reasons and solutions to tooth decay, malaligned teeth, tooth loss, or any other gum issues.

A healthy bonding between the child and the dentist is essential so that these tips can be followed both by the parents and the child.

1. Use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste and make sure the child spits after brushing.

2. Twice-daily brushing should be a daily regimen for two minutes at least.

3. To build good health habits in kids, start teaching your children how to floss regularly.

4. Remind the child to pay more attention to the posterior (back teeth-molars), especially in terms of toothbrushing, as they are more prone to decaying faster.

5. Dental guidance and advice should be sought every six months in the dental office or clinic, even for a healthy child, to rule out the possibility of any infections or decay.

Hence behavior management is a key factor in supplying dental care for children. Dental issues need greater attention from the parent as well as the dentist. Emphasis on trust-building and inculcating confidence levels with good communication between the child and dental doctor is the best way to keep oral issues at bay.

Last reviewed at:
08 Nov 2021  -  4 min read


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