Helping children cope with the dental examination using relaxation breathing training
Silverman, Laurie Hope
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Anxiety experienced while visiting the dentist is quite common and has been ranked fourth among common fears. Previous studies have indicated that an estimated 5 to 20% of the general population experience dental anxiety, with a range of 5.7 to 19.5% of that population being children. Dental anxiety hinders the dentist-patient relationship and impairs the dental treatment experience, resulting in decreased patient cooperation and lowered quality of dental care. Anxious pediatric patients tend to become more defiant and less cooperative during dental procedures, making the treatment more difficult for the dental staff, and creating a negative experience for the child. Approximately six percent of children report high levels of dental anxiety that are likely to interfere with treatment, such as avoidance of the dental office, resulting in poor oral health, anxiety scores, and higher caries prevalence.;Participants included 36 children, ages 9 to 12, and their parents. The children attended a standard non-invasive dental examination, which included x-rays and a dental cleaning. Children who attended the dental examination and met inclusionary criteria were recruited and alternately assigned on a daily basis to the breathing relaxation training intervention (intervention group) or standard care without the breathing/relaxation training (control group).;The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children (STAIC), which is comprised of two self-report scales for measuring state (S) and trait (T) anxiety, was used (Spielberger, 1983). Children completed the state and trait anxiety scales of the STAIC prior to the dental examination and then a duplicate state anxiety scale following the appointment. During the dental procedure, all participants in the intervention group were instructed to use the relaxation breathing.;The results showed a significantly greater reduction in state anxiety from pre to post-examination for the intervention group compared to the control group (p = .021, where p < .05; M= 26.15, SD = 5.37). All correlations were significant between trait and state anxieties, pre and post-examination. No statistical significance emerged for gender or age. There were also no statistically significant findings between groups of parents who reported dental fear and the participant's state anxiety scores (p = .568, where p < .05; M= 33.90, SD = 3.50). We concluded that trait anxiety and intervention were predictors of state post-examination scores, while state pre-examination scores were not. Overall, this study revealed a preliminary analysis of the benefit of relaxation breathing training on children undergoing a dental examination. A more robust sample size, along with more detailed measures and assessments, may further benefit future researchers in identifying and remedying causes of childhood dental fears as early as possible in order to allow for a lifetime of healthy dental care.
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