Behavior Management

Children are often very nervous or scared when experiencing something new. Our goal as trained pediatric dentists is to make your child’s visit to the dentist as comfortable as possible. We start with “baby steps” to help your child learn how to overcome any fears of going to the dentist. Most children begin to understand after their first visit, that brushing and counting their teeth was easy and that they have overcome their fears of the dentist. Some children need a little more help to overcome their fear of the dentist.

We use many scientifically proven techniques to help children overcome their fears. These include tell-show-do, positive reinforcement, and distraction techniques. Most children respond well to these techniques. Some children are unable to cooperate after using these techniques and may need pharmacological behavior management such as nitrous oxide, sedation, and general anesthesia. The options that will be appropriate for your child will be explained by your pediatric dentist during your office visit. If you ever have questions about the techniques or why they were chosen for your child, please ask your pediatric dentist.


This communication technique involves verbal explanations of the dental procedures in phrases appropriate to the developmental level of the patient (tell), demonstrations for the patient so they can see, hear, smell, and touch aspects of the procedure in non-threatening setting (show), followed by completion of the procedure (do).  The goal of tell-show-do is to teach the patient-important aspects of the dental visit, familiarize the patient with the dental setting, and to help improve the patient’s 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 goals of nonverbal communication are to enhance the effectiveness of other behavior management techniques, and to gain (or maintain) the patient’s attention and compliance.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive feedback (reinforcement) is an effective technique to reward desired behaviors and thus, strengthen the recurrence of those behaviors.  Positive feedback can be given through voice modulation, facial expressions, verbal praise, and appropriate physical demonstrations of affection by all members of the dental team.  The goal of positive reinforcement is to reinforce positive behavior at your child’s dental visit.


Distraction is a technique which diverts the patient’s attention from what may be perceived as an unpleasant procedure.  The goals of distraction are to decrease the child’s perception of an unpleasant situation and to avert negative or avoidance behaviors.

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous Oxide, also known as “laughing gas,” is used to relax patients for their dental treatment. Nitrous oxide is a blend of two gases, nitrogen and oxygen, and it is given through a small breathing mask which is placed over the child’s nose. The gas allows the child to relax when breathed through the nose, with the child remaining fully conscious, keeping all reflexes intact, without putting them to sleep. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recognizes this technique as a very safe, effective technique to use for treating children’s dental needs. The gas is mild, odorless, easily titrated and reversible, and recovery is rapid and complete.


Sedation uses medications to assist the child to cope with fear/anxiety and cooperate for dental treatment. Sedation is recommended for apprehensive children, very young children, and children with special needs. During dental sedation, your child may become very drowsy and even fall asleep, but will not become unconscious.

There are a variety of medications that may be used during sedation. The dentist will choose the medication 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 used during your child’s sedation.

General Anesthesia

General Anesthesia is recommended for extremely apprehensive children, very young children, medically compromised children and children with special needs that would not respond well to conscious sedation. General Anesthesia renders your child completely unconscious and the dental treatment is begun after your child is asleep. Having dental treatment completed under general anesthesia is similar to having ear tubes placed or tonsils removed at the hospital. Dental rehabilitation under general anesthesia requires the services of an anesthesiologist who specializes in general anesthesia in addition to the dentist performing the dental work. Depending on the child’s needs, we offer office-based general anesthesia and hospital-based inpatient and outpatient general anesthesia.