New reports are finding that visiting a “dental fear clinic” can help children who are afraid of the dentist. Fear of the dentist is something that is very common among adults and youth, and it can have some devastating results. A person’s, or child’s, fear of the dentist can prevent them from getting regular care and this can impact not only their oral health but their physical health. When mom has to take her child to the dentist, it can turn into a battle, and no mom wants to see her child uncomfortable and in distress. This means that moms are always looking for ways to make dental visits easier on children.
According to US News, there is some evidence that visiting a “dental fear” clinic can help children who are fearful of the dentist and make the experience a little better for them. This was shown through a 10-year follow-up study, which can be viewed in full here.
There are programs like this in Finland, but they may need to be instituted in more countries. Finnish researchers state that they have found a way to help children as young as 2 manage their dental anxiety and this includes using anxiety-reducing techniques.
The clinic is called Clinic for Fearful Dental Patients, and patients who attend are seen by three dentists. These are not just regular dentists; they have been trained in treating patients who are afraid and have taken multiple courses specifically on this subject. To complete a study on how well this process worked, they looked at the experiences of 152 patients, with 80% of them being between the ages of 2 and 10 years old. They had all been referred by other dentists after treatment attempts had failed due to the child’s fear, treatments that needed to be done to prevent further decay and issues.
The study found that the clinic worked, and it worked because the way they approached each patient is based on their individual and specific fear. They first administer psychological techniques that are specially designed to make sure a patient stays calm and that they build a sense of trust. Dentists then work to distract, relax and desensitize their patients, and they even will use hypnotherapy in some cases. However, the biggest factor that made a big difference was their focus on pain management and making sure that it was easy on a child. This was done through oral sedation, laughing gas, or even general anesthesia in some of their most fearful patients.