As a pediatric dentist, you play a special role in your patient’s lives! The way you interact with your patients today, can affect their feelings about dental care (and trust in medical caregivers) for years to come. While you likely got into this field because you enjoy working with children, are you taking care to ensure their experiences are as positive as they can be? Here are a few simple ways to make sure that your patients, (and their parents), feel comfortable at your practice- and keep returning for years to come!
1: Try to Keep a Personal Touch
Asking easy questions of your patient can bring you two benefits: They feel more comfortable talking about things that they are familiar with or excited about, and you get some insight into their personality. Make note of significant details so you can connect comfortably- what sports do they play? Do they have siblings? What class in school are they enjoying?
You can form bonds by sharing how you relate to the things they tell you: Do you have kids in your life of a similar age? Do you enjoy the sports they’re playing? It’s a simple way to connect, and gives you subjects to follow up on at their next visit.
Of course- throughout their appointment, tell them how great they are doing! If they are getting praised, they’re more likely to settle in and be more comfortable with the procedure.
2: Decorate and Compensate
A sure-fire way to make kids feel more comfortable in your practice, is to decorate in a way that is engaging for them. In your waiting area, include fun bold art in bright colors. Have non-fragile toys on the ground, accessible for play.
At the end of appointments, provide a “treat” for their good behavior. Small toys, stickers, and pencils, are all fun take-homes that make kids feel like they’ve won the jackpot every time they visit the dentist! This helps them learn that your practice is a fun, safe place.
3: Communicate Your Actions
Clear communication is very important for setting anyone at ease- especially kids. Explain what you’re doing as you move through their checkup or procedure, and if you can, explain why you’re doing it. Let them know what feelings they might expect as you go. Knowledge is power!
4: Don’t Sugarcoat It
This applies to both your patients and their parents. Your duty is to provide healthcare and the best possible professional recommendations. So, if you have a patient that is clearly not taking steps to ensure their dental health, tell them what the need to be doing, and what the consequences might be if they don’t. Tell the primary caregiver as well, but the intent is to be honest and authoritative, while not mean or bossy. Emphasize that you and your patient are partners in their health, but the patient has a biggest part to play in their own success.
5: Friendly Follow-up
A few days after the appointment, follow up with a text to check in on how the patient is feeling after their appointment and to see if they have any follow up questions. This might be a good time to reiterate the steps you’d like them to take, if any, for continuing care. This can be done on a case by case basis, or with tools like Intiveo, can be automated and customized as part of your standard messaging.
Finally, schedule regular reminders when recalls are coming due- acknowledging the difficult parts of the calendar like back to school time, holidays, etc., so your patients and their families are able to plan ahead for their regular care.
So much of making anyone more comfortable, comes down to clear and kind communication. For children, this is especially true. If you take the time to connect with your patients on a one-to-one basis and show that you care about their feelings about visiting the dentist, we’re sure you’ll have a committed patient for years to come! Plus, you’re all the more likely to be rewarded with many referrals to other families.