Tips for Treating Pediatric Dental Patients

young girl in dentist's chair

Visiting the dentist for a six-month cleaning or a regular checkup gets easier with age for many individuals. Most of us remember going to the dentist’s office when we were younger and getting fun prizes after finishing our appointments. While these fun memories make each visit seem easy, many children can feel uneasy during their appointments. Luckily, with a few tips for treating pediatric dental patients up your sleeve, you can make each patient’s appointment go smoothly!

Follow these American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) behavior management guidelines and pointers for managing pediatric dental patients.

What Is Behavior Guidance for Pediatric Dental Patients?

Making a dentist appointment as comfortable, educational and safe as possible for all patients is the goal of practicing pediatric dental behavior management. Taking the time to understand each patient’s needs before their appointment can help each visit go smoothly. Children can feel uneasy when seeing the dentist’s chair, the tools and the bright lights around the office.

Nonpharmacological behavior management in pediatric dentistry relies on the teamwork of dentists, dental assistants and parents to understand a child’s needs and behaviors rather than using sedation to ease the nerves. Dentists and other professionals in the workplace can impact the environment children observe as they walk into the office, predict behaviors and communicate effectively with each patient to ease their dental fear. Parents can also use communication to demonstrate the importance of having regular teeth cleaning and how a professional can make their smiles brighter and healthier!

These methods of practicing behavior management in pediatric dentistry can go a long way for children who might be afraid of dentist visits or have physical and mental disabilities.

1. Assess How the Child Might Behave

Before scheduling an appointment, a parent can let the dentists know about their child’s thoughts and behaviors surrounding their upcoming cleaning. Communication between dentists and parents can also include discussing the child’s possible developmental level, temperament and how they typically best adjust to unfamiliar situations.

Practicing behavior management in pediatric dentistry lets the professional team assess the possibilities of distress in a child to make the appointment as comfortable as possible. It’s easier to predict certain behaviors in a child before they check in with the receptionist. It gives the dentist an opportunity to explain each action to the child before completing them, creating space for the child to ask questions. It also lets the whole dental team know to move at a slow, calm pace.

Encourage your patients to let you and your staff know if their child would benefit from special accommodations to put their mind at ease while receiving essential care for their teeth.


young girl playing dentist


2. Create a Welcoming Environment

First impressions are key to a smooth appointment during a child’s visit to the dentist’s office. Luckily, easing their nervousness when going in for a cleaning or routine checkup can be as simple as possible with a child-friendly reception space in your building.

Playful decor, calm lighting and helpful signs can create a relaxing atmosphere for children to enjoy before making their way back to the dental office. These few minutes of comfort can eliminate those last-minute jitters before a cleaning or procedure. A child-friendly reception area also creates positive memories associated with visiting your office, so they can anticipate the fun of their next appointment.

You can make your reception area child-friendly by including the following features:

  • Mentally stimulating activities instead of TVs or tablets, like blocks and puzzle games.
  • Chalkboards or coloring tables placed around the room.
  • Bright colors in the walls’ designs or flooring.
  • Funny wall mirrors for kids to make goofy faces in before their appointment.

3. Listen to Your Patient

Acknowledging the emotions that can arise from visiting the dentist’s office lets you connect one-on-one with your pediatric patients. Even asking how a child feels when arriving at the office can reveal hidden anxiety about visiting the dentist. Validating their feelings and letting them know that your job is to make their teeth sparkling clean could help them see beyond their uncertainty and see you as someone to trust.

You should continue asking if they are comfortable through each step of their cleaning or checkup so they feel heard. If they express concern about something causing pain or discomfort, immediately ask them how you can make the situation better. Responding to their comments and making active changes in their presence to soothe their worries lets them see you as a friend rather than a foe. It also helps them feel more in control of the situation, which can be reassuring.

4. Encourage Clear Communication

If you are working with a nonverbal child or notice a hint of shyness from a pediatric patient, don’t worry! Communication isn’t limited to speaking. Visual aids can come in handy, so a child can demonstrate how they feel throughout their appointment without saying a word.

For example, a simple chart with a range of positive, neutral and negative facial expressions lets the patient describe their level of pain or comfort by pointing to the image. These charts are also good options for patients who may experience painful symptoms when they try to open their mouths or speak.

Other great visual aids for children include diagrams demonstrating proper teeth brushing, flossing and other healthy habits. You can effectively instruct them on how to clean their teeth at the end of an appointment, and they can look at the pictures to see those instructions in action. Child-friendly graphics should have happy individuals and bright colors to attract their attention.

Clear communication is also a two-way street. During the appointment, a child can feel nervous from a lack of understanding about why they are in the dentist’s office. To ease this tension, try to walk them through every step of your plans so they know exactly what to expect. Remember that a calm voice, sympathetic tone and visual aids during an appointment are efficient communication methods that children can understand best.

5. Use Rewards to Reinforce Positive Behavior

Positive reinforcement goes a long way when children wrap up their dentist appointment. It’s crucial to remember that most children visiting a pediatric dentist’s office are not used to seeing dentistry instruments or having their teeth cleaned by others who are not their parents. The experience can seem unfamiliar to them, so you can establish a reward system to make their efforts worthwhile.

Some of the best childhood memories at the dentist’s office are choosing from the prize box after the appointment ends. You can prepare the same reward system with fun toys, pieces of tooth-friendly candy, stickers, bouncy balls and other creative prizes kids love.

After a few appointments, your young patients will start to understand that each visit to the dentist’s office earns them a fun reward, ultimately minimizing the fear of getting a teeth cleaning.


young boy getting a prize from dental hygienist

Create Positive Memories for Your Patients With ProDentUSA

Long-term dental health starts with creating positive childhood experiences at the dentist’s office. You can make a difference in pediatric patients’ lives with the right set of dental products by your side. At ProDentUSA, we create long-lasting tools that make each appointment go smoothly. You can rely on our dozens of quality options, ranging from diagnostic instruments to surgical tools, that are affordable and made to withstand the test of time.

When you try ProDentUSA dental products, you can make any repairs you need to your trusted instruments with us. We carefully repair your tools so you can use them again for as long as possible.

Shop our quality dental products today!