Pain is not just an unpleasant sensory, but also an emotional experience that is subjective and individual to every child who experiences it. The subjective nature of pain makes it hard to assess in children, especially those who are nonverbal. No one wants a child to experience pain. Often there are simple techniques such as; distraction, breathing and imagery that can be used to help children lessen the discomfort; however, these techniques may not be applicable in more invasive procedures and are hard for all children to comply with. Some children are unable to understand directions or unwilling to follow them.
Some children require special care during dental treatments due to their young age, excessive fear, inability to cooperate and/or extensive treatment needs. Parents often question about why general anesthesia or sedation is necessary for children undergoing dental procedures, which may be painful or uncomfortable. General Anesthesia and conscious sedation are management techniques that use medication to help children relax so they are less stressed and anxious, and are better able to cooperate during dental treatment. Minimal patient movement during dental treatment helps prevent injury and enables the dentist to work more efficiently, keeping the dental experience positive.
Your children remember more than you think! Especially when it comes to pain.
The brains of children, especially those of age 3 and under, undergo substantial changes and have twice as many synapses as in adulthood. Early stages of a child’s development are not only affected by genetic factors, but also environmental factors such as early childhood experiences that stimulate neural activity in the brain. If a child experiences a high level of pain and anxiety, like an unsuccessful dental procedure, when he is young, it is possible that they run the risk for post-traumatic stress. The child may experience flashbacks, bad dreams or frightening thoughts that can occur in his everyday life or a similar situation later on in life. Research studies showed that if a child has a traumatic experience or has a great deal of pain, especially when they are very young, the experience may lead to changes in neurologic development and his overall development. If there are repeated stimuli, such as pain, the synapses in the brains may be altered which ultimately affects learning, memory and cognitive abilities. Children are vulnerable to negative influences in early life. It is important that health-care professionals work together with parents to bring positive early childhood experience that better shape their future.
References: Joseph 2012; Urban Child Institute 2013; Canadian Mental Health Association, 2013
Copyright 2013 The Children’s Oral Care Centre