How to Connect with Your Pediatric Patient.

October 9th, 2021 Andrew Chang

How to Connect with Your Pediatric Patient

Joint Podcast between Orthodontist Dr Andrew Chang & Pediatric Dentist Dr Diane Tay

This is an area that many general dentists can find challenging. It can be commonplace for kids to grow up being scared of dentists. Unpleasant experiences can often linger for a long while. I can recall parents recounting stories of their childhood unpleasant dental experiences. In this dentist podcast, Dr Andrew Chang and Dr Diane Tay talk about:

  1. Why Connecting with your Pediatric Patient is important and why first impressions count.
  2. What are clinical tips and tools to make the initial exam easier for them.
  3. What are principles of communicating to a child that can be applied to clinical dental practice.

This is a clinically relevant topic and we go through many clinical situations.

Why Connect with your pediatric patient?

Understanding and connecting with your paediatric patient is an art and a science. Being able to connect with your little patients are so important as it helps to make your treatment easier, improve their acceptance towards your oral health advice and is a great practice builder!! When adults see how great you are with their kids, they too would like to come see you too! So, here are some tips.

What are the key things/clinical signs to look out for?

  • Note their demeanor and behaviour
    1. Personally, I always go out myself to receive the pt from the waiting room. This is because I am already assessing the patient and noting how they are in the waiting room (ie: are they hiding behind their parent, are they crying, are they confident and unafraid?). This also allows you to connect with them from the very start of the appointment. Try to also greet them without your clinical gear if possible (hard with COVID now)
  • What is their temperament: Are they shy/slow to warm/independent/confident
  • Understand their developmental stage (age, cognitive ability)- BE ADAPTABLE
  • Watch the child’s stance in the room- initially try to work from the front at eye level and be aware of the child’s physical distance.

What tips can you use to make your clinical examination easier?

  • Give them choices that do not make a difference? (eg: would you like to jump on the chair or can mum/dad/I help you up the chair). Particularly important for the young child or toddler. (eg: Do you want me to clean the top teeth or bottom teeth first)
  • Give them a mirror to watch what you are doing
  • Tell-show-do
  • Explain things in a way that the child can understand (modulated to their understanding and development)
  • Distraction
  • Allow siblings (if present) to role model behaviour

What communication principles can be applied in clinical practice?

  • Respect the child as an individual and use age appropriate language
    1. Be genuinely interested in the child and what their interest. Do have to be gender stereotype.
  • Pace the procedures during the appointment, based on how the child is coping. Periodically ask how the child is coping. Give them some sense of control as lack of control and predictability is generally what causes fear and anxiety
  • Be positive. Positive reinforcement and praise specific things rather than just general things. Try to encourage everyone in the surgery to provide a comforting and positive environment.
  • Include the child in their appointment where appropriate
  • Rewards/treats
  • First visit:
    • Send a welcome letter
    • Do things that are non invasive and simple treatment
    • Can conduct initial interview in non-clinical setting