Reducing Children’s Dental Phobias, Part 2: The Distraction Technique

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Another method of behavioral management commonly used by pediatric dentists is known as the distraction technique.  This technique distracts a child from something they may feel uncomfortable with while refocusing their attention on a more positive and competing sensory experience.  One example of this technique that is often used is when administering injections for dental anesthesia.  Rather than having the only source of stimuli come from the needle itself, many dentists (not just pediatric dentists) may speak to their patient while administering the injection, or wiggle the patient’s cheek, or ask the patient a question, or have an entertaining movie or television show playing.

It is not simply the element of distraction from something negative that makes this technique effective.  Rather, it is providing the patient with a focal replacement that is ideally both a strong and calming stimuli.  As many of us know firsthand, the very state of being afraid or feeling stressed actually heightens pain.  Increasing the amount of pain felt, of course, likewise contributes even more to a sense of fear and anxiety.  An effective distraction technique aims to disrupt this cycle of fear, anxiety, and pain by providing a stronger positive or neutral stimulus than the perceived negative one.  This naturally allows patients to better process any potential discomfort while remaining calm and focused throughout the remainder of a procedure.

Distraction techniques so not have to being immediately prior to a dental procedure.  In fact, recreating a positive focus on a setting too often associated with pain, fear, and anxiety, begins from the earliest stages in the relationship.  This is why Dr. Mike has placed so much importance in providing his patients with an office space that redirects the focus from potentially one of unfamiliar instruments and discomfort, to that of toy trains circling overhead, arcade games, toys, and movies.  Of course, all these forms of entertainment are at their root just fun and that’s a great thing to share with kids in and of itself.  Nonetheless, the fact that these fun distractions also help reduce anxiety and promote positive dental experiences, helps ensure that your children will grow to look forward to seeing their dentist, and by extension – maintain healthy smiles for a lifetime.

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