Dental Clinic Management Tips to Handle Child Patients
What do babies and dental clinic management tips have in common? Nothing. Children are a blessing from God unless they step into a dental clinic. For dental practitioners, handling a child patient is more like discomfort than a blessing. I am not trying to stereotype kids, but more often than not, I’ve found myself trying to compose crying kids while their parents feel embarrassed. However, blaming kids is not justifiable because the idea of someone putting tools in your mouth is horrific, no matter how old you are. The main problem lies in the lack of information that little ones have about oral health. Not that we expect them to know everything about their teeth at such a young age. But turbulent behavior is a sign of lack of trust. Here are some dental clinic management tips to make the procedure comfy enough for children.
Why Do Children Hate Dentists?
Before changing your methods, we need to understand the reason for disruptive behavior in children. Let’s look at some common reasons that cause toddlers to feel anxious in dental clinics. The most common reason for unruly behavior is fear of the unknown. Sometimes a child may have a history of having bad experiences with dentists. Toddlers also fail to understand the need for dental care. As we all know, if nothing goes according to a child’s wishes, they resort to crying to force their parents. Most parents would eventually give them what they want to avoid embarrassment in public.
Children are also more susceptible to mood swings because of tiredness, lack of sleep, hunger, visiting an unknown environment, etc. While creating a dental clinic management plan, we need to consider all the factors that affect a child’s behavior. In the following paragraphs, we will address each issue in detail to help you understand child behavior.
Dental Clinic Management Tips for Child Patients
Understand the Type of Crying or Resistance
The very first step is to understand the type of crying of a kid. Yes, it may sound odd. However, different types of cries have different meanings. I talked to a child psychologist to understand how I can help children feel more comfortable. Her solution was to understand the needs of my young patients. The idea is to classify the emotions and then act accordingly. Here are the main types of cries and the corresponding actions:
Crying with Hysteria: Children cry loudly and continuously when they are subjected to a stranger environment. The purpose of hysterical crying is to achieve attention or to scare others. Attention might be needed to leave the clinic or to interrupt the doctor. In such cases, we should try to comfort the child by giving them some incentive. I try to comfort the children by saying that they will only get attention once they stop crying. You can say that talking is not a foolproof plan. However, the more we communicate, the more a child will feel comfortable. You can also ask their parents to be present by the chair to provide a sense of familiarity.
Crying Due to Fear: Children are very susceptible to getting affected by their environment emotionally. It’s natural to feel fear when you’re surrounded by the agony of other patients and looking at scary tools. Fearful crying is not loud or continuous, but it can be characterized by avoidance and withdrawal from the situation. I feel that it is easier to comfort a fearful child. We can initiate playful talks and use toys to instill a sense of confidence and friendliness. The main motive will be to distract them from the emotion of fear and allow them to accept the new surroundings.
Crying Mid-Procedure: If a child is silent at first but starts crying during the procedure, they are possibly hurt. In such cases, we need first to try to show some sympathy and incentivize the process. Mostly, my technique is to tell them that the pain will be over soon, and they have done an excellent job so far. The praise will encourage them, and they will be distracted. If the child is too young to talk, you can involve the parents in comforting them.
Protest Cries: When a child is not ready to get dental care, they will show a protesting character accompanied by persistent but low volume crying. A child protests when they are not sure why they are in a dental clinic. As a dentist, there’s nothing you can do to stop the continuous crying. We need to accept the fact that children cry when things are not going according to them. Only their parents can handle such protests. Allow the parents to calm and convince their kids for the treatment.
Dental Clinic Management Tips to Handle Parents with Disruptive Children
If you have been to a dental clinic with a child, you know that it is embarrassing for parents to handle the disruptions. We start to panic and shout or switch to authoritative behavior. However, the display of authority only makes things more difficult. As a dental professional, you need to talk to parents about understanding the child’s viewpoint and act accordingly. Additionally, we can also try to separate the child and parents in the operating room. Once the parents are not around, a child has no option but to listen to the dentist. After taking permission from the parents, be a little stern to help the child. A dentist also needs to understand the fear that a dental procedure will end only after a painless treatment. Therefore, being patient is the best option.
Handling a Disruptive Child During Dental Treatment
Performing dental procedures on a disruptive child is the most challenging task of a dentist’s life. The little mouths of children are not ready for the metallic tools, and it’s disheartening to watch kids with dental issues at an early age. However, it is for their betterment, so we need to be gentle and understanding. Using distraction as a mood changer is common, but the real issue lies in the mindset of the children. Guessing a child’s emotions is not possible, so we can follow a protocol to create a friendly environment.
Lying on a chair with a bright light above their head is not a welcoming sign, so we can change their surroundings first. If they are looking at the tools skeptically, we can use the tools on our skin to demonstrate that they mean no harm. Children learn a lot by looking or holding things. Allow them to see a dental mirror or any other harmless tool. Kids will feel comfortable when they are sure that tools are not going to cause any pain. You can continue the procedure once they stop resisting.
Dental Clinic Management Tips for A Better Clinic Environment
Children observe their surroundings a lot and absorb the vibes quickly. Not only kids but grown-ups are also affected by the environment they experience. The aura of the clinic is your first impression on the patients. Therefore, it is essential to create an environment that develops a sense of inclusion in every visitor. You can use indoor plants or terrariums for a positive vibe. An external light also matters a lot when you want to spread a warmer welcoming feel through the design. If your clinic lacks light, it will feel like a depressed and closed space. A baby would immediately start to feel anxious or scared in such environments. Using proper lighting in the absence of natural light and also making correct color choices helps a lot in easing pain also.
I recommend using some soothing artwork or music in your reception or waiting area. Visual and audio feedback can modulate our emotions and induce a sense of comfort. Do not overdo the interior design but be aware of your choice because every small choice significantly impacts the future.
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