Will a pediatric dentist help my anxious 8-year-old before he gets worse?

I’m in a tough position, and I’d like an opinion on whether it’s best for my 8-year-old to see a pediatric dentist or not. He’s of an age where I really think he should be doing better than he is. He’s been getting regular cleanings and checkups from our family office for several years now. These, he does ok with, but we found out he has his first cavity at his last appointment and he literally fell apart. He’s a sensitive kid, but his behavior was strange, even for him. He just started bawling about having the decay and literally slid out of the chair onto the floor. I was so embarrassed, but I got him settled down and the doctor offered to fix it then and there. It did not go well at all. My son kept moving and wouldn’t allow the doctor to give the anesthetic. They want to sedate him and try again, but I’m really afraid that this whole thing is going to make him more anxious and leave him with a long-term fear. I’m kind of wondering if a pediatric dentist would have better luck with him, but at the same time, I don’t want him to feel like a baby if I take him to one. None of these choices sound good. What should I do? — Marissa

Pediatric dentists are great — especially at your son’s age. Pediatric offices tend to have the right attitude can can keep him engaged in something else or distract him so that he’s not worried. Pediatric dentists are pros at this because they work with kids all day long. They’ll talk to him about his interests and get him immersed in discussion so that he starts to feel at ease. Sometimes, family offices are so used to working with grownups who can transition fast from one thing to another that they forget to give kids the TLC they often needs. When an office caters to kids, you’ll see them being playful and goofing around, where appropriate, and they’re glad to hear about the latest video game or sports news.

It really is a whole different atmosphere and kids pick up on the vibe — and that can take the edge off, so he’s more agreeable. Plus, they’ll take time to show him what’s what in the office, so he’s comfortable with all the tools. Going this route, sedation might not be necessary, or he may be comfortable just going forward with laughing gas.

It’s wonderful that you’re considering the long-term issues here, as well as trying to look out for your son where he is right now. Try a pediatric dentist and see how it goes. You can always fall back on sedation as an option later, but it’s quite likely he’ll do much better with someone who specializes in helping kids.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Alana Macalik. For more information on the services she provides, visit her Arlington cosmetic dentist website.