5 Tips for Treating Children in your General Practice: Making Your Minor Patients Feel Majorly Important.
Dental anxiety is a well-known problem among children. But if you find yourself uneasy every time a child walks into your practice, you’re not alone! Pediatric anxiety is surprisingly common among dentists, too. While the American Dental Association found that more children visit the dentist than adults, the majority of dentists greatly prefer treating adults over children.
This is entirely understandable. Children are not little adults. They have unique needs, and they can be unpredictable. Their smaller, sensitive teeth require more delicate care, and the prevalence of dental anxiety can be draining. Not everyone has the natural gift to deal with kids, or is certified in pediatric care. Despite this, caring for children is a necessary part of the job and can be fun with the right mindset.
SmileMakers has compiled a list of tips to help relieve some of the concern surrounding your youngest patients. In no time at all, you can make every small patient feel like a big deal.
1) Make the visit memorable and exciting
Whether you’ve thought about it or not, your young patients will notice your office decor. Pediatric patients don’t know exactly what to expect, especially on their first trip, and look for contextual clues in the office. It’s important to ensure that their visit is positive and memorable. If you’re anticipating a large number of pediatric patients, it’s worth preparing for it. Set up an office play area, get child-friendly decals for certain rooms and stock up on stickers and prizes. A positive relationship with a young patient could turn them into a lifelong returnee.
2) Give them something to relieve stress and hold their attention
Many children are not loud or aggressive, they just can’t keep still! Holding the attention of a child is a considerable challenge if you’re not accustomed to it. It’s hard to start any procedure if the child won’t stay in the chair. It is equally difficult to treat a child with any form of skepticism or dental anxiety. Luckily, this is not a new problem, and a lot of work has been done to create ways to accommodate these children. One method is to hold their attention with fidget toys. These gifts are designed to keep the child occupied so that they stay still and allow the appointment to proceed. Even when you need their attention, fidget toys help prevent the nervous energy from bubbling up. You can focus on the task at hand knowing the patient is focused on the toy.
3) Over Explain Everything
Taking time to give full explanations works well with children. Even when they do not understand every detail, they feel safer knowing you care enough to explain. This does not mean you can give an overview at the beginning and expect positive results. Your careful explanations must occur throughout the entire procedure. You’ll find the children will be far more at ease if you coach them through every step of the process. This is doubly important if the procedure is invasive. As a rule, any time you make contact with a different part of their mouth, explain why.
4) Avoid pain and offer sedation.
The fastest way to lose the goodwill of a child is through unexpected pain. Children are sensitive and not always prepared to handle pain well. You may already have a system to help with these situations, but relaxation techniques and hand signals can help the patient manage the pain and inform you of their discomfort. In instances where you know that the pain will be extreme, having sedation is almost a necessity. Sedation will ensure the procedure has no panicking or interruptions.
5) Positive reinforcement
When you’re treating a child, the more appreciation and kindness you show, the more you’ll receive back. Kids respond well to gifts, encouragement, and high-fives. Most children accept kindness at face-value and reciprocate it instinctually. If you have a couple of prizes or rewards lined up for good behavior, you’ll likely see that good behavior during their visit. Toys like pull back cars, bubbles, or jewelry never fail to make a lasting impression. If you have an especially difficult or anxious patient, you may find that starting the visit with a prize with a promise of another at the end gives positive results.
In need of other rewards for your young patients?
SmileMakers has a collection of toys and prizes for every great appointment you may have with a younger patient. We also offer sugar-free and xylitol candy if you’re looking for a sweeter - but healthy - reward to keep those little smiles returning.
Yarbrough, C. M.P.P.; Kamyar, N. Ph.D.; Vujicic, M. Ph.D. (2014). Key Differences in Dental Care Seeking Behavior between Medicaid and NonMedicaid Adults and Children. Retrieved from:http://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Science%20and%20Research/HPI/Files/HPIBrief_0814_4.ashx
Psaltis, G. DDS (2003). The reality of working with kids. Retrieved from:
Beena, J. P. (2013). Dental subscale of children’s fear survey schedule and dental caries prevalence. European Journal of Dentistry, 7(2), 181–185.