Dealing with kids can be fun, exciting and nerve-wrecking, all at the same time. Now add surgical chair and needles to the mix and you are just waiting for a small volcano to erupt. Paediatric dentistry is not for everyone. You need to have a lot of patience, be a great communicator and apply strategic planning to successfully deliver treatments.
Dealing with small kids may not be the only challenge; dealing with their parents can also be difficult at times. They have the best interests of their kids at heart of course, but you will be managing their anxiety and their child’s sense of fear all at the one time.
Following is some extremely useful information and tips, tricks and tactics to help you better deal with younger patients.
Do a Consultation First
Consultations are extremely important for all cases, but more so for smaller children. Imagine bringing a small kid directly on to the chair. Surrounded with huge lights, needles and other surgical instruments and the kids are bound to get nervous and finicky. It can become a point of no return where no amount of reassurances would convince them that the needles will not be used for them.
It is wiser to go through a consultation first so that you can help talk the process out, thoroughly check for the problem and discuss treatment methods and processes. This will not only help prepare the parent and child for what is ahead, but will also give you a good idea about the kind of a patient and parent you are dealing with.
Train Your Staff
Your staff should also be trained to assist parents and kids through the process. They should be able to deal with anxious parents and fearful children. Their job should be to explain the process and debunk any reservations or apprehensions they may have. It’s great, where possible to introduce a bit of fun and game play. Staff who have lived with younger siblings will be really good at this strategy.
Think about your Practice decoration and design
Your practice décor and design are important when looking to make adults feel comfortable and reassured that they are in safe hands. It is the same for kids. Many practices I know who consult with a high volume of children have a well-designed fun kids cave. One surgery dedicated making kids feel engaged and relaxed. Some dentists dress up as Batman and other heroes.
Speak to the Parents
Parents are a huge part of the challenge when dealing with young patients. You really need to get them onboard and explain to them what their role in the treatment process will be. It is very common for parents to say to their child something like ‘It will only hurt a little’ or ‘it’s just a small needle;’ and while they have good intentions at heart, it ends up doing more damage than good.
Many parents also come with preconceived notions and specific reservations about some forms of dental treatment. For instance, many parents aren’t happy about the use of fluoride. And while you can explain to them the need for fluoride in current times, you cannot make the decision for them. At times you will need to educate parents and let them make their own judgement. There may be times, when the parents will leave the surgery stating your treatment values aren’t aligned with their own. And that’s ok. Or they may ask their preferences be respected, and that is also fine.
Should You Keep the Parent in the Room?
There are a lot of different opinions regarding this. Primarily, it should depend on the parent as well as you. If you are more comfortable with the parent in the room, then by all means. Though do give them a little briefing about who is in charge and what they can and cannot do in order to lend help. Let them know that you’d be the person in control of doing all the talking and they should refrain from saying or doing anything that could make the treatment difficult.
On the other hand, there are dentists who believe kids behave better when the parents aren’t in the room. They are comparatively calmer and more relaxed knowing that there is no one around who would heed to their tantrums. Know what works for you best.
The Right Number of Visits
Kids may not be too enthusiastic about coming to the dentist again and again. Try to limit treatments to two or three visits. However, getting a kid to sit in a chair for forty minutes in one go is a challenge on its own. Again, speak to the parents to see what they would rather prefer. You can opt to do half the mouth in one go or keep to a quadrant. Many paediatric dentists prefer doing a quadrant and then preparing the other quadrant for the next visit, this way, the number of visits drops down to three or even less.
Following are a number of other useful tips and tricks to successfully treat small children:
- The use of rubber dams also helps speed the process up and get treatments done much quicker.
- Many practitioners don’t use local anaesthetics for kids as they are just dealing with baby teeth. However, in case the kid ends up feeling something, then it could be almost impossible to make him sit through the rest of treatment peacefully. It is better to get things done pain-free and relatively faster.
- Opt for stainless steel crowns whenever possible as they have an annual failure rate of 0.3%. Compared to composite resins’ rate of up to 15% and 25% for GICs, it only makes sense to go for steel.
- Don’t make hasty decisions. It is alright to tell the parent that you don’t have the best answer at the moment, but would be able to better assist you with more assessment.
- Be prepared for little kids to act up, and train your staff to lend a helping hand.
- Do all your preparations in advance so that the little patient does not have to sit in the chair any longer than absolutely necessary.
There you have it! Treating high a volume of small children requires team alignment, a great set up and the ability to deliver clear treatment options and instructions to parents. And the personality to deliver a little fun along the way!
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