Managing the child’s concerns
Every clinician in the field of paediatric dentistry knows that special care has to be taken with young patients. A good children’s dentist is part psychologist, part play-pal and part professional. So where do we start?
First of all, it’s very important to make sure the first dental visit is a very simple and comfortable one, rather than one where treatments are done. It pays to see the child after they get their first missed tooth—we see a lot of children from the age of two.
It’s good for the child during that original visit to first become familiar with the dentist, the dental environment and the staff. We have some toys children can play with and they can just wander around the practice. This is basically to make sure they’re not just coming in, sitting in the chair and opening their mouth.
Before putting kids in the chair a good paediatric dentist will ask the child to walk around the practice, to play with the chair, to play with toys, to grab a toothbrush for a quick lesson on how to brush their teeth. Then we just do a quick check of their mouth to make sure everything is all right. It’s a very good educational position for parents as well because we talk to the child, in the presence of the parent, about diet and oral hygiene. So parents get a lot of information as to how to maintain oral hygiene for their kids.
Only after that should a children’s dentist start doing the regular check-up and clean.
For older children, we try to make each appointment pleasant. If they need any dental treatment, we try to do the most simple treatment first, to make sure they get familiar with the instruments and they are eased into the process, becoming more comfortable and confident along the way.
We also offer general anaesthesia if they have a lot of decayed teeth and they need a great deal of work done. We have a specialist paediatric dentist who does this for us. She is registered with the hospital and she’ll do all the treatments for children under general anaesthesia, if needed.
Most children are fine with the dentist. But if they are not, thanks to today’s technologies we can even put some cartoons, perhaps from YouTube, on the screen above the chair to help to distract them as we do a treatment. That sort of distraction helps everybody in the room, including the patient and the children’s dentist.
It is basically about developing a good relationship with the child, a relationship that means they are happy to come back and see you, rather than you just being their doctor.
So the strongest message is that the earlier they start and the quicker they become familiar with the dentist as an individual, and with the clinic, the better it is going to be for the child, their parents and the dentist. That’s also a very good start for the child’s oral heath because it means any problems are going to be identified earlier.
Find out more about our children’s dentistry appointments