Paediatric dentistry by virtue of the particular features of the patients concerned and the pathologies affecting them, is evolving as a discipline with a strong specialised vocation. This development primarily concerns professional skills – with reference, for example, to the introduction of the specialisation in paediatric dentistry, the first Italian specialists of which will complete their training in 2019 – but also involves managing the encounter in a broader sense, organising reception and operating environments, sanitary clothing and clinical equipment.
The child, in fact, often tends to develop an evaluation of the clinician based on the latter’s appearance, so literally before being asked to open their mouth. Colours, for example, have a strong impact on the child’s attention: finding out the young patient’s favourite colour can also be very useful from a motivational point of view. Not only that, studies have been conducted to investigate the emotional aspects of different colours, hypothesising the connection between colours like red, blue, yellow, green, black and white, and, respectively, feelings such as anger, happiness, sadness, surprise, disgust and fear.
Pediatric dentistry: what children thinks about syringes and dental anesthesia
A recent Indian work investigated the possible colour impact of dental lab coats, providing children with images of models differing in colour, and asking them to indicate their preference. The choice was between white, surgical green, blue, pink plus a coat with a neutral colour but with clearly printed cartoon characters and, for comparison (we could say “control”), a formal outfit, the latter relevant to the socio-cultural environment where the study was performed.
The sample of 600 paediatric subjects, including 338 males, was divided into two numerically equivalent age groups (6-10 and 11-14 years old), and the results were then also read differently. In the youngest biennium (6-8 years), the most frequently chosen outfit (32%) was the one with the cartoon characters, although this figure could be influenced by male dominance, given that 32% preferred pink. Already by the following age group (9-10), there is a visible trend of preference for white among males, which turns out from the following to be predominant in both sexes, and is confirmed by statistical analysis. This would seem to suggest how the patient, in the absence of particular traumatic events, is encouraged to get accustomed to, and naturally accept, the figure of the doctor.
There is a surprising analogy with the anaesthesia syringe, which has always been among the strongest triggers of dental anxiety, and not only for paediatric subjects. Regarding this element, the children were able to choose between a syringe with a conventional shape and a camouflaged type, that is, disguised with the shape of an animal. The 6-10 age group showed a strong preference (78%) for the latter, but a comparable result (71%) was recorded for the conventional syringe in 71% of those aged 11 to 14.
By reporting the indications to the adult patients, who in many cases add their own dental anxiety to one or more traumatic experiences in the paediatric phase, it can be assumed that using a more “friendly” device than the conventional syringe constitutes an element of distraction, or at least the reduction of at least one anxiety factor. Another aspect that seems to emerge is the importance, where early childhood is concerned, of working with the aim of educating about prevention but also minimising the operation’s discomfort, with the aim of maintaining an effective therapeutic alliance even with young people and adults.