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Behavior Management

Often times, children are very nervous or scared when experiencing something new. At Davis Pediatric Dentistry it is our foremost goal as experienced and trained pediatric dentists, to make your child’s visit to the dentist as comfortable for them as we possibly can. To help your children learn how to overcome any initial fears of going to the dentist, we start with “baby steps”. The majority of children begin to understand after their very first visit, that brushing and counting their teeth was easy, and that they have conquered their fears of going to the dentist. However, some children continue to remain apprehensive and therefore need a bit more help in overcoming their fear.

Child at the dentist

Various scientifically proven techniques are used to help along any children with remaining fears of going to the dentist. These include:

Tell-show-do, positive reinforcement, and distraction tactics. Most children respond well to these methods. The few children that are unable to cooperate after using these techniques may need the additional help of pharmacological behavior management such as nitrous oxide, sedation, and general anesthesia. Your child’s options will be discussed with you and explained by your pediatric dentist throughout the duration of your visit. If you should have any questions about the techniques that are used or why they are chosen for your child, please feel free to ask your pediatric dentist.


This communication technique involves verbal explanations of the dental procedures in phrases that are appropriate to the development standard of the patient, “Tell”. “Show” demonstrates for the patient so they can see, hear, smell, and touch aspects of the procedure in a nonthreatening setting. Finally, “Do”, which is followed by the completion of the procedure. The main goal of Tell-Show-Do is to teach the patient important characteristics of the dental visit and to familiarize the patient with the dental setting. In the end, it is our aim to improve the patient’s overall response to dental procedures.

Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication is the reinforcement and guidance of behavior through appropriate contact, posture, facial expression, and body language. The specific goals of nonverbal communication are to increase the effectiveness of other behavior management tactics and to obtain and maintain the patient’s attention and cooperation for an extended period of time.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement or feedback is a successful technique to reward the behavior that is required and therefore to strengthen the recurrence of those behaviors. Every member of the dental team can give positive reinforcement through voice modulation, facial expressions, verbal praise, and appropriate physical demonstrations of affection. The goal of positive reinforcement is to reinforce positive behavior at your child’s dental visit.


The distraction technique is used to divert the patient’s attention from what can be identified as an unpleasant procedure. The goals of distraction are to decrease the child’s awareness of the unpleasant situation, thereby averting negative and avoidance behaviors.

Nitrous Oxide

Commonly known as “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide is used to relax patients for their dental treatment. Nitrous oxide is a combination of two different gases, nitrogen and oxygen. Nitrous oxide is given through a small breathing mask, which is placed over the child’s nose. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recognizes the technique as a safe and effective tactic used for treating children’s dental needs. Nitrous oxide is mild, odorless, easily titrated and reversible. The recovery from this gas is rapid and complete. This gas allows the child to relax when they breathe through their nose while still remaining fully conscience, keeping all reflexes intact, without having to put them to sleep.


Sedation uses medicines to assist the child in coping with fear and anxiety and to cooperate for dental treatment. Sedation is recommended for uneasy and very young children, as well as children with special needs. During sedation, expect your child to become drowsy and even fall asleep. Sedation will not make your child become unconscious.

There are various medications that can be used while under sedation. The dentist will choose the medication that will be best suited for your child’s overall health and treatment recommendations. Please read our Dental Sedation FAQ or let us know if you have any questions regarding the specific medications that can and/or will be used during your child’s sedation.

General Anesthesia

General anesthesia is highly recommended for extremely apprehensive children, very young children, medically compromised children, and children with special needs that would most likely not respond well to conscience sedation. General anesthesia causes your child to become completely unconscious. The dental treatment begins after your child has fallen asleep. Having dental treatment under general anesthesia is likened to having your tonsils removed or ear tubes placed at the hospital. Dental rehabilitation under general anesthesia requires the assistance and expertise of an anesthesiologist who specializes in general anesthesia, in addition to the dentist that is actually performing the dental work. Depending on the child’s needs, office-based general anesthesia along with hospital-based inpatient and outpatient general anesthesia are offered.

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