Does your practice treat pediatric dental patients? These tips will help your team to provide the appropriate dental care for younger patients.
1. Create a Kid-Friendly Space
The dentist's office can be an unfamiliar, frightening space for children. Going to the dentist can put anyone in a vulnerable position, but children often feel this to an exacerbated degree because everything is new and so much bigger than them. Large chairs can seem overwhelmingly huge, and white walls and floors can make children feel out-of-place.
What to Do
Let children know that they can feel comfortable at your office from the moment they walk in the door. Create a kid-friendly area in your waiting room with toys, games, and colorful decor. Dedicate one or two treatment rooms to pediatric patients and use a smaller size chair so children won't feel dwarfed by an adult chair. Any staff that works specifically with pediatric patients can wear scrubs with cartoons or colorful designs to help children feel at ease.
2. Use Language Children Can Understand
Common pediatric dentistry terms may be difficult for younger children to understand. For example, the term X-ray may sound frightening, when in reality the procedure is painless. Children must be able to understand, on a basic level, what will happen while they're at the dentist, and using language that is familiar to them is an easy way to meet this need.
What to Do
Exchange harder-to-understand phrases with a simpler explanation. When getting an X-ray, you can tell children that you're "taking a picture" of their teeth. Rename tools that may sound frightening to a small child. A "drill" could become a "spinning brush," and an "excavator" can be called a "pick."
3. Use Visual Aids
Children may have difficulty comprehending what a procedure will involve or what will happen to their teeth when they are being told. Many children process information better visually than they do auditorily, and visual aids can be helpful when explaining challenging concepts to younger minds. Picture books and short video clips are helpful in communicating to children what you need them to understand.
What to Do
Create visual aids for common procedures in your office, like fillings, cleanings, and root canals. Depict in clear, easy-to-understand pictures what happens, in order, during the procedure. Consider using drawings of people whose expressions are neutral or positive to encourage children to develop the idea that the dentist isn't a bad place.
4. Let the Child Know What to Expect
Much of a child's fear of the dentist comes from simply not knowing what to expect. Dental procedures are often new for a child, and they're not sure what they'll feel, if it will hurt, and how it will change their teeth. They may have heard unpleasant stories of when their friends, parents, or siblings went to the dentist and you may be working against misinformation.
What to Do
Talk to the child about their procedure before getting started. Let them know what kinds of sounds they may hear, smells they may smell, and most importantly, what it will feel like. Allow them to ask questions and give honest but appropriate answers. Then, give them time to adjust to what is about to happen before diving in.
5. Reward Children for a Job Well Done!
Going to the dentist may seem routine for adults, but it's often a momentous occasion for a child. When they're done, they'll have conquered big fears and uncertainty! Whether they had a simple cleaning or a root canal, it's important to recognize the hard work on their part.
What to Do
Reward your young patients with a small toy or prize. Many dental offices have a "treasure chest" or "prize box" filled with inexpensive toys that the child can choose from. Stickers are also a great way for a child to show off their new accomplishment. Discount coupons to local restaurants can support other businesses in your community and may cost nothing for your pediatric dentistry practice if businesses are willing to offer a special discount to your patients.
Treating Pediatric Dental Patients: They're Not Just Small Adults
Pediatric dental patients aren't just smaller versions of adults. They have specific physical and emotional needs, and providing dental care to younger patients requires that you meet both. Depending on where they are developmentally, each child is different and your approach should be flexible. Your pediatric dentistry practice can use the above 5 tips for treating young patients and creating an environment where children feel safe and know what to expect.
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