Soothing a child's anxiety about visiting the dentist can mean the difference between successful treatment or not. There are a few simple things you can do to make your dental practice child-friendly, starting with a short meet and greet.
Pediatric dental care can feel more like the job of a child psychologist than a dental heath professional. There’s something about a trip to the dentist’s office that sends shivers down children’s backs. Maybe they learned to fear dentists from their friends or an episode of their favorite cartoon. Whatever the reason, pediatric dentists have to be able to sooth a child’s anxiety in order to successfully perform the dental procedure at hand.
You can boost your patient load and become known as your area’s leading gentle pediatric dentist. Simply learn ways to calm a child before and during the most complicated dental procedures.
Start with a meet and greet
If you’re about to see a patient for the first time, or if you know that your next patient has a habit of bugging out in the dentist’s chair, take a few minutes to meet the child and his or her parents in the waiting room. Show them that you’re a normal, friendly person and that there’s no reason to be afraid. Meeting children while they’re still with their parents will help relieve their anxiety. This is better than introducing yourself a few seconds before you begin the procedure.
Provide positive reinforcement
Going to the dentist’s office is an unfamiliar experience for most children, especially if it’s their first time. Most children don’t know how to act, sit, or behave while in a dentist’s chair. Let children know how well they're performing under these strange new circumstances. A simple “Good job” will help a child understand that things are going according to plan.
Use the right body language and tone
Children are extremely observant, and they’ll be looking to you for context and reassurance while they’re in the dentist’s chair. Talking to a child throughout the procedure provides a means of distraction and helps remind children that they're in good hands. Be aware of the effect your words and body language are having on the child. If the patient refuses to stay still, do your best to remain patient and calm.
Master the art of distraction
Every dentist’s office has a bag of tricks lying around to help ease young patients into a state of tranquility. It’s no surprise that most pediatric dental offices are adorned with brightly colored toys, handheld video games, animated wallpaper, and TVs broadcasting endless cartoons. If your patient load is starting to look more like a fourth grade attendance sheet, you might want to think about investing in children’s toys and games. A new video system, a smartphone with interactive games, or a new TV with a stack of cartoon DVDs will help lull your patients’ most biting fears.
Offer conscious sedation
If all else fails and a child needs to undergo a lengthy dental procedure, you might have to turn to conscious sedation. The most common forms of dental sedation are nitrous oxide, otherwise known as laughing gas, oral medications such as Valium and other anti-anxiety medications, and general anesthesia. Most forms of sedation are used only when a patient requires a great deal of pediatric dental care, or if a patient has special needs. If you use sedation, talk to the parents before the procedure to make sure they're aware of possible side effects.
One size does not fit all
Children react differently when faced with new or unfamiliar situations. A simple procedure might be a no-brainer for some children and a complete nightmare for others. If you want to be a gentle pediatric dentist who can calm even the most anxious children, you’ll need a calm demeanor and a number of different calming techniques on hand.