In honor of back to school, let’s talk about ways to make your practice more appealing to kids. Let’s face it, a trip to the dentist office isn’t the average person’s idea of a fun or relaxation destination. For many adults and especially for children, visiting an oral health care provider can be an anxiety filled experience. So, what can you do to improve dental office morale for your youngest patients? We’ve got six suggestions for you.
- Start them young. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that all children see a dentist by age one or within six months of their first erupted tooth. Following that initial visit, six month check-ups are encouraged to stay on top of dental health. Urge parents to commit to this routine. Kids that are familiar with dental chair, instruments, you and your staff from a young age are less likely to be fearful of the experience as they get older. As an added bonus, six month checkups will facilitate preventing cavities and other dental problems before they turn into bigger issues- helping children avoid major, more traumatic procedures.
- Prize boxes. A little treasure box goes a long way in keeping children motivated to cooperate in the chair and excited to come to the dentist. There are several companies that cater to dental office prize needs and can keep you well stocked with toys, plushes, stickers, etc. for a very reasonable price.
- Designated kids’ area. Have a place in your waiting room that is catered just to kids. That might be a clubhouse, tree-house, or simply a corner of the room that is designated child friendly. Smaller furniture, engaging toys, books and a Disney movie playing will help children feel more comfortable and entertained while they are waiting for their turn in the chair.
- Coloring or Activity Pages. Get kids excited and involved with your practice. Send a dental themed coloring page home in their goodie bag or include a “Kid’s Corner” in your quarterly newsletter with dental themed activities for kids. Kids can bring in the completed sheet for an extra ticket to the treasure chest or some other incentive. Hang up the entries on the wall, everyone likes to see their work displayed! You’re creating another positive experience for your little patrons and the display shows your clients you care about and are involved with your young patients.
- Smiles Club. Recognize your great brushers with admittance to “The Smiles Club” if they go cavity free at their six month cleaning. A picture on the wall and certificate for your patient will make even older children feel great and keep them motivated to keep taking care of their pearly whites.
- Communicate well with kids. Discuss ways to better communicate with kids in a staff meeting/training. Here are a few basic ideas:
- Start by making personal introductions. Teach your staff to introduce themselves to the parent and then to the child as well. This establishes trust. “Mom or dad knows or trusts this person and they care enough to introduce themselves to me too.”
- When talking to a child, always try to kneel or squat down to be closer to their eye level- it makes you much less intimidating than towering over them while you speak.
- Explain what you are going to do before you begin a procedure. Be sure to use age appropriate language. For a three year old, a “tooth-picture” or “tooth buzzer” makes more sense to say than an “x-ray” or a “drill.” On the flip side, a ten year old does not need you to tell them you are going to “tickle their teeth” with a polisher.
- Show the kids you are interested in them. Ask questions about what they like and find similarities to make them more comfortable. Maybe you and your patient both love dinosaurs or soccer. Or, perhaps your daughter’s most favorite color is purple too!
- Finally, speak in polite commands rather than asking the child to do something. If you say, “Do you want to have a seat in the chair?” In all reality, it’s a perfectly acceptable response for a child to say, “No.” You asked their opinion and they gave it to you. Now you have another obstacle to work around. If instead you try, “Please take a seat in the chair. Thanks!” You are removing the easy opportunity for a conflict. You’ll get better results with telling (nicely) than with asking.
Try building these kid-friendly strategies into your practice dynamic to make your office a more fun, positive experience for your youngest patients. Got a favorite tip that we missed or have a success story from one of the strategies listed above? We would love to hear from you in the comments section below!