Treating children doesn’t have to be as scary as going to the dentist. Here are five tips to help both you and your pediatric patients eliminate the stress from a visit. 

Pediatric visits can be as scary for the dentist as they are for the children. But they don’t have to be. In this article we’ll give you some ideas for calming children during their dental visit. These will help the child and you have a more satisfying experience. 

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AADP) recommends that children start visiting their dentist no later than their first birthday. With all children, your goal should be to make them as comfortable with you as possible, because this will set their expectations for dental visits possibly throughout their life. Children typically fear three things: Separation from parents, pain, and the unknown. With very young children, keeping their parents close and making them comfortable should be your goal. Speak in a calm tone, and be patient. If a child freaks out, stop and calm them before proceeding. As children grow older, you can start to employ more communication techniques.

  1. Know Each Child

Combine your communication skills with your practice management software. First, make sure the family files in your software are up to date. Then use the software’s patient communications features to remind the head of household when their child is due for an appointment. Schedule appointments so they avoid interrupting the child’s daily schedule for eating, napping and so on.

When the child comes into your office, get to know them. Know their hobbies, something about their friends, what they like or don’t like about school. Ask specific questions, and set the stage. For example, rather than asking, what is your favorite subject in school, ask, When you go to school, what is the first thing you like to do? Would you rather eat worms or crickets? Record their answers in the notes section of your practice management software. Be relaxed and have fun. If you’re comfortable, they will be, too.

On their next visit, review your notes beforehand. Address them by their first name and ask specific questions about a birthday party, a camping trip, a math test or whatever you noted on the previous visit. 

  1. Speak on Their Level

Literally, if you’re talking to them in the waiting room, squat so your eyes are on the same level. Use language they understand, but speak normally. Talk the way their friend would talk to them, not as we sometimes think an adult should address a child. Forget all the dentist-speak. Kids

don’t know caries from carrots. Call the saliva ejector a spit vacuum. Explain everything in terms they’ll understand. 

3. Make the Unknown Known

Almost everything about a dental visit is unnatural to a child. Educate the child while dispelling the fear of the unknown. Explain what you’re doing at every step. Talk to the child, not the parent. Describe how you’re going to take X-rays and why. Then show the X-rays as well as the charts provided by the practice management software. Tell them what you’re looking for, and point out what you found. Let them touch the equipment when possible. The dental handpiece can’t be that dangerous or scary if you let them touch it, right? 

4. Give Praise and Rewards

Praise the child at each step. “Wow, you can hold your mouth open really wide. That’s great.” This is a good time to address the parent. Tell them, in front of the child, what a great job their child did. Mention specific actions if possible. 

Children love rewards and will remember and look forward to getting a sticker, a small toy, or a gift certificate from a local donut shop. Check online. A number of suppliers sell prizes in bulk for dental offices. Also check with local merchants, who likely provide certificates for free fries and other goodies.

5. Go the Extra Mile

If you want to go all out, consider making the visit an adventure. Start by selecting a storybook theme, say a kingdom, where the child is a queen or a king looking for treasures. Give them a paper crown to wear. The waiting room might be a train heading for the adventure. Decorate as you and your staff desire. The operatory might be a jungle, and the child’s mouth is a cave, where you’re searching for lost treasures. Explain how the hygienist is cleaning trash from the trail. Show pictures from the intraoral camera to the child. Reward the child with a toy lion, gold nugget or a small notebook. Use your imagination. 

People often compare negative experiences with going to the dentist, but it doesn’t have to be this way. If you make the experience pleasant while they’re young, visiting the dentist can be positive for a lifetime. Start by getting to know your pediatric patients and recording the things they care about in your practice management software. Then use the tips in this blog to make their experience rewarding. 

Dentrix is a fully capable solution that integrates all major imaging and other devices as well as a host of additional software services to help you be more child friendly.

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