Pediatric Dentistry Tips: How to Incentivize Every Return Trip

There have been massive amounts of research into dental anxiety, and with good reason. Dental anxiety keeps thousands of people from visiting the dentist every year. Most of the research points to one seemingly easy way to prevent dental anxiety - start early. And, for patients that require multiple consecutive treatments every year, it’s often best to incentivize their visits to help them positively anticipate each trip. Here are a few ideas SmileMakers has compiled that may help your younger patients look forward to every visit. You can customize them to fit your practice, and use them with great success to help pediatric patients be more enthusiastic about their treatment.

Pediatric Dentistry Tips: How to Incentivize Every Return Trip

Help them grade their own oral health
It can be hard for children to remember why good oral hygiene is necessary, or even how to look after their teeth if they’re not supervised. A daily oral health quiz helps them along that process because every child can appreciate seeing themselves succeed. The test does not have to be complicated, and there should never be a failing grade; it’s just a way for the kids to come to their own realization that they could be doing more for their teeth. It can be as simple as a checklist test, with easy questions like:

[√] Have you brushed your teeth today?
[√] Do you brush your teeth twice every day?
[√] Do you floss your teeth?

With every subsequent visit, you can track their progress and show them how well they’re doing. As they improve, stickers or other simple rewards can be included for continued excellent grades. A brushing chart also works well for this, and can be customized with your practice name and information so they’ll remember your positive reinforcement daily!

Offer tiers of prizes
This is a simple premise that can be used to great effect. For every successful visit, the pediatric patient is allowed to choose a higher tier of prizes. For younger or first-time patients, you can keep their attention on the toys rather than the treatment, decreasing the chance of dental anxiety or a poor experience. It gives them something to look forward to, and a reason to behave well. At their first visit, they might not have been able to get the monster truck, but you can explain that they’ll be able to earn it with good behavior and habits over time. You don’t need to break the bank for this, and the reward tiers don’t have to grow excessively. The difference between a bracelet and a heart necklace might be all the incentive that they need.

Pediatric Dentistry Tips: How to Incentivize Every Return Trip

Get pediatric patients involved in their treatment
While toys and checklists are great tactics to help motivate children, there’s nothing they’ll remember more than a challenge. Even your less competitive patients will probably be interested if you frame it properly. The idea is to turn their oral health into a game. One tried and true method is the 2-2-2 challenge. At its essence, all you’re doing is asking children to see their dentist twice a year, and brush and floss their teeth twice a day for two minutes. That’s just good oral care, but turning it into a challenge and giving them a practice-themed notepad and pencil to record their progress will entice them into forming good habits from an early age. You can even use passport books, which are tailored to help children record their oral habits.

Add to their collection
Limited edition collectibles are an age-old trick used to help people see an increased value in certain items. It works really well with children because they usually want the exclusive toys or stickers. When they know none of their friends have the same item, this makes it more valuable. Pediatric Dentistry Tips: How to Incentivize Every Return Trip The value grows if you have the full set, too. By using ‘exclusive’ prizes like keychains that come in different designs or stickers that can only be collected at subsequent visits, it gives a positive incentive to children who may need a lot of dental work. Rather than seeing their dental visits as a chore, they have a chance to complete their collection. This will soften the experience for them and give you a chance to build the relationship by showing their progress through their sticker book or lanyard. If the visits are a series of especially tough treatments, reward their commitment to their oral health with a plush toy and you’ll have a patient for life!

SmileMakers has all you need to keep younger patients coming back.
If you’re just starting to introduce rewards for your younger patients, or are looking to improve your current stock of pediatric toys, take a look through our toys and prizes to find the just-right incentives for your practice.