Nonpharmacological Behavior Guidance for the Pediatric Dental Patient


Purpose: To present evidence-based recommendations on nonpharmacological behavior guidance for the pediatric dental patient.
Methods: The work group assessed eight systematic reviews for effectiveness of nonpharmacological behavior guidance techniques in children undergoing preventive care or a dental treatment visit. The key outcomes assessed included cooperative behavior, anxiety, and procedural pain. To formulate the recommendations, the work group used the GRADE framework to obtain consensus on domains such as priority of the problem, certainty of the evidence, balance between desirable and undesirable consequences, patients’ values and preferences, acceptability, and feasibility.
Results: Overall, the use of basic nonpharmacological behavior guidance techniques resulted in trivial-to-small effect on improvement in behavior or reduction in anxiety. However, for children and adolescents undergoing preventive care, mobile applications and modeling showed large effects in reduction of anxiety. For those undergoing dental treatment, strategies such as modeling, positive reinforcement, biofeedback relaxation, breathing relaxation, animal-assisted therapy, combined tell-show-do, audiovisual distraction, and cognitive behavior therapy showed large reduction in anxiety. For children and adolescents with special health care needs, audiovisual distraction and sensory-adapted dental environment showed large reduction of anxiety.
Conclusions: All the formulated recommendations were conditional and were mostly based on very low certainty of evidence. Conditional recommendations imply that different choices or combinations of behavior guidance techniques may be most appropriate for different patients. Clinicians should use techniques consistent with the parent/patient values and preferences. These recommendations are based on the best available evidence to-date and are intended to aid clinical decision making.  (Pediatr Dent 2023;45(5):385-410)