Anticipated behavior during treatment by age:
0-2 years of age:
From dental cleanings to restorations, these children are simply too young to fully understand what is happening. This is called the pre-cooperative stage. They will almost all cry during any type or treatment, regardless of how simple and easy it may be.
3-4 years of age:
A patient of this age can be judged by how they handle the cleaning appointment. If they are relaxed, then dental treatment will often go smoothly. Kids of this age are coming out of their pre-cooperative stage of behavior and are beginning to cope with the sights and sounds of the dental office. Usually a little crying is anticipated at the injection, but with the help of the nitrous oxide, as treatment progress and nothing hurts, they settle down and are great patients.
5-7 years of age:
These children usually make great patients. They are old enough to cooperate and more importantly want to cooperate. The brain is finally developed enough to begin to tell the difference between pressure and pain. The vibration of the dental “drill” is very upsetting to a two year old, but for a six year old, most are fully able to see that while not necessarily the most pleasant sensation, it is one without pain (thanks to the numbing medicine, of course). Also in this age range, the child is able to tie their shoes by themselves which signals enough manual dexterity to brush their teeth by themselves with direct supervision.
8-12 years of age:
These children have already made up their mind about the dentist. They are ready for their appointment and know what is going on. For most, this means a cooperative and pleasant visit with perhaps a little tearing up at the injection of the numbing medicine. These children are readying themselves for young adulthood and usually make great patients as well; however, on rare occasions, this age can also mean they are ready for an all-out battle. Should a child of this age decide not to cooperate, the most appropriate course of action due to their size and safety concerns for child and providers is to refer to a pediatric specialist for oral sedation.
13 and older:
Dentally speaking, these patients are now adults. For most patients, the primary (baby) teeth are gone. They are mentally prepared to be adults in the dental chair as well. The problem is mainly getting them to brush and floss at home. They are old enough to do it without supervision, but at times the motivation of a teenager for home care is lacking. This is easily solved when dating becomes of interest!