Do you like the dentist? How was your experience as a child? If you had a better experience when you were a child would it have made it easier today?
One of the biggest questions we receive is; “Why do my kids need to go to a pediatric dentist?” Specialized areas of dentistry work with specific populations of patients that possess a similar need. You may hear from your dentist that you need a root canal, in which case they will likely refer you to an endodontist because they specialize in performing root canal therapies. Maybe you need braces, so you’ll be referred to an orthodontist and so on. A child who may be having a difficult time getting through a dental appointment or one that needs to have cavities filled in most cases will be referred to a pediatric specialist.
A pediatric dentist completes several years of additional training in procedures and techniques specific to treating children. What sets them apart most from general dentists is advanced training in behavior guidance techniques. These techniques range from minor distractions, to “tell-show-do” approaches, to expertise in a spectrum of sedation options. Sometimes all a child needs in the dental chair is a little extra patience and reassurance that going to the dentist doesn’t have to be a scary thing, and we provide an environment that allows that.
We begin the appointment with meeting the child where they are when they come in. That means understanding that there may be fear and then finding ways to alleviate that fear. Sometimes that looks like having a long conversation about the character on their shoes or asking about their favorite things and finding commonality. At Growing Smiles Pediatric Dentistry, we use minor distractions including playing movies over each dental chair, sensory toys for kids to hold on to and of course cool prizes at the end of each visit. Minor distractions are helpful for most kids because they help take all the attention off of what causes stress at the dentist.
We continue through the appointment step by step or using the “tell-show-do” approach. This means showing them the mirror, the toothbrush and the suction, giving them fun names and allowing them to interact with each thing in order to understand its function. Anyone would be fearful having a sharp looking instrument heading straight for their mouth without warning or explanation and our goal is to provide knowledge about the unknown in order for it to no longer be scary. All of the team members at Growing Smiles Pediatric Dentistry are trained in how to interact with patients on this level. There is a sheet that each team member receives on their first day that lists what the dental world calls things and what the kid friendly terms for those things are.
In some cases, the “tell-show-do” approach isn’t sufficient and the needs of the child must be met sooner rather than later. They may have multiple cavities on several teeth and not treating the teeth immediately in order to allow the child time to get used to the dental process isn’t a wise decision. In these scenarios, sedation may be recommended. One type of sedation, sleep dentistry, allows the dentist time to complete all of the necessary treatment in one appointment while the child is sleeping. Some benefits of this technique include the ability to maintain fun dental visits, the child generally has no memory of the treatment, their dental pain is alleviated and they can now come to each preventative appointment in good spirits knowing it will be an easier than before.
Overall, the approach of each appointment is dependent on the child and what needs they have to be met. The purpose of such a high level of training is to create consistency which provides comfort for a child, knowing what they can expect. We also strive to schedule our patients that need a little extra love with the same team member every time they come in to continue to have a consistently positive experience. As pediatric specialists we recommend a first visit at age one, similar to a well child checkup at the pediatrician. In this case, we hope to alleviate fear early with positive fun visits. We hope to meet your little one soon!