Preparing Your Child For Oral Surgery: Tips To Reduce Anxiety

Health & Medical Articles

Although oral surgery is certainly not anything to look forward to, it can help to resolve issues quickly and may even restore a beautiful smile. Unfortunately, when children require surgery of any kind, it can be an anxiety-producing experience for both mom and dad. While some anxiety is to be expected, there are ways to help your child acclimatize to the idea of needing surgery. If your child requires oral surgery of any kind–be it a simple extraction or surgery on the jaw itself–use these easy tips and ideas to help quell their anxiety through understanding and fun.

Recognize and Moderate Your Own Anxiety

If you have a fear of the dentist, or of surgery over and beyond the slight anxiety most parents experience, it's important to be honest with yourself about it before addressing the operation with your child.

Children are very perceptive, especially when interacting with people they are close to. It is possible for your child to develop a phobia or fear that didn't previously exist based on your own response.

Make an effort to address your own dental phobia issues before you begin addressing the procedure with your child. If you cannot control your own fear, consider asking your dentist to help explain the surgery in a neutral tone. A trusted family member can also act in this fashion.

Visit Your Pediatric Surgeon

The need for oral surgery isn't always diagnosed by a maxillofacial surgeon. In many cases, it is the dentist that diagnoses your child, after which he or she refers the case to the surgeon. You may not meet this person until the day of the procedure, especially if it is a simple outpatient procedure.

Allowing your child to meet and get to know the surgeon beforehand can be an excellent way to help your little one build confidence.

Depending on the age of your child, this could be as simple as a single consultation where your child is allowed to ask questions or interact with the doctor directly. While this may end up being an extra out-of-pocket cost, it is worthwhile if your child is struggling with trust or confidence issues.

Think of it this way: you wouldn't leave your child with a babysitter that had never been introduced to them before. You would more than likely have them meet once or twice, allowing a bit of interaction, and ensuring that a basic relationship was forged.

By allowing your little one to meet the surgeon before the surgery, you are effectively allowing for the same process to occur on a doctor-patient level.

Play Through the Process With Teddy

Role-play is an excellent way for children to learn about medical procedures. As a parent, you should start by educating yourself on the process used for each surgery. Your dentist or surgeon's office should be able to provide a rough outline for you so that you know what to expect.

Taking this information and role-playing it with your child and beloved teddy or doll can help to reduce fear. Allowing your child to act as the surgeon or dentist is also very beneficial, as it allows them to engage with the process on a level that is familiar to them.

By acting as the surgeon, your child can engage their imagination and remain "in control." It's a little like stepping into a pool a little at a time, versus jumping right in.

As you play through the scenario, you can act out and explain:

  • The process of getting signed into the office or hospital
  • Anesthesia or sedation
  • The surgery itself
  • The recovery room experience
  • Any post-surgical care or in-hospital time
  • The recovery time after your child returns home

If this brings up additional questions, simply address them on an age-appropriate level.

Encourage Your Child to Bring a Toy (Or Buy A New One)

Pediatric maxillofacial and dental surgeons understand that children tend to be highly attached to their toys. They also recognize the comfort a well-loved teddy or doll can be when undergoing medical procedures. Don't hesitate to ask if your child can take along a favorite item. Most will allow this all the way through the surgery itself.

When choosing a toy, try to pick an item that:

  • Is small enough for your child to carry or hold
  • Doesn't use batteries or electricity
  • Is bed-appropriate–teddies, dolls, and action figures work well

This will help to ensure that it can be tucked in with your child before and after sedation.

Getting Through Surgery Doesn't Need to Be Difficult

Above all else, simply being there for your child to lean on can be the difference between fear and anxiety and confidence. Your dental care team is an excellent resource to lean on during the time before and after the surgery. If you have any questions or concerns about quelling your little one's fear, schedule an appointment with your clinic. While oral surgery may be a fact of life for some children, there is much that can be done to reduce the stress surrounding it. Addressing issues as they arise can also help to prevent additional surgeries or anxieties down the road. 


3 September 2014

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