Four Tips For Making Young Patients More Comfortable
We recently celebrated National Children’s Health Month, which is a great time to reach out to parents to have them bring their children in for dental checkups. However, many children have a fear of the dentist. Think of it from the child’s perspective – they are lying on a chair while a stranger pokes and prods their mouth with shiny, sharp instruments. That doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?
Luckily, there are steps you can take to help make these visits less stressful. Here are four tips you can use to help make your appointments with little ones a success.
- Work with parents before the exam. For many children, the events leading up to their visit can be as important as the actual appointment. Have resources for parents that help them prepare their little ones for the experience. Activities such as writing out a few questions for him or her to ask the dentist or a quick primer on why dental care is necessary will engage the child and give them an opportunity to play a larger role in their appointment.
- Create an inviting space. Visiting the dentist takes children out of their usual routine, so try to make your waiting room as welcoming as possible. Consider having a space with coloring books, crayons and soft toys. Many dentists even have a “play wall” – an entire wall of their waiting room covered with a fun mural, a television showing children’s programming and engaging toys. Not only will this take their mind off of the visit, it will make it easier for Mom or Dad to fill out any necessary paperwork while waiting.
- Be detailed. Before you begin, explain the purpose of the visit. Describe each step of the process to him or her as it happens. Let them know exactly what’s going to happen so they know what to expect. Speak directly to the child (if they are old enough to communicate) instead of using a parent as a proxy. This relaxes the child and makes them feel that they have greater insight to what is happening and relaxes them.
- Congratulate them. For many children, a visit to the dentist is a very emotional experience. Let them know that they did a great job and explain to them why receiving regular checkups is important. Use this as an opportunity to reinforce good dental habits and to empower the child to take command of their dental health until their next visit. A tangible treat will contribute to the child’s positive experience. Remember, not all rewards have to include candy!
Evaluate each child individually and work with their parents to make sure that you’re in the best position possible to have a successful appointment. What tips and tricks do you use to help young patients feel more at ease in your office?