February is National Children's Dental Health Month. In the spirit of the month, there are many ways dental hygienists can make a dental visit a positive and rewarding experience for young patients. The American Dental Association has resources available to help you promote Children's Dental Health Month, including posters, activity sheets and a planning guide. In addition to these resources, what else can you do to help make a child's dental visit a fun and productive experience rather than a scary or boring one? Here are some tips to keep kids engaged this February and beyond.
While it is important to address parents, it is equally important to involve children in discussions about their dental health. By including children in the conversation during a dental visit, you will begin to involve them in their own dental health. If we only speak to parents, children may not think the information is applicable to them, and they may tune out of the conversation. Also, if parents need to relay the information to their children, some details may get lost in translation.
Address your young patients directly, look them in the eye and explain any issues in simple terms. Also, compliment them when they are doing a great job. For example, if they are free of dental caries, praise them on their excellent oral hygiene habits.
Be Hands On
Children are fascinated by typodonts! If you leave one on the counter, kids will often ask questions like, "Are these real?" or, "May I touch these?" This is a great opportunity to start conversations about dental health, such as brushing technique or how to keep teeth in tip-top shape.
Hand mirrors can be used to allow children to watch while you work. Kids who are in your chair for the first time may be anxious. Allowing them to see what is going on may alleviate their anxiety. In addition, hand mirrors are an excellent way to show children where they may not be brushing properly or to show them what the correct flossing technique looks like.
Appeal to the Digital Generation
Today's kids are growing up in a digital world. Use mediums they are familiar with to engage them in their dental health. One awesome resource is the Colgate Tooth Defenders Mobile App. To continue the conversation about good dental habits at home, mention the app to youngsters and their parents at the appointment.
Educational videos are also a great resource. There are many available at no cost to dental professionals. You can play them in the waiting room to engage kids before their appointments even begin. Then they may come to you with questions about what they saw on the screen. You can also show the videos in the operatory.
Assemble Goody Bags
Who doesn't love a goody bag? Let your young patients know a goody bag awaits them at the end of the appointment. Allow them to help you fill the goody bag. Show them the items you add and talk about the use for each. For example, you may toss in flossers, fluoride rinse or a sand timer to help aid in longer brushing. Picking out their own toothbrush adds excitement and gives ownership to the new brush. Children will usually then be very excited to try out all their new products at home!
Prizes create a rewarding experience at the dental office. Prizes may encourage good behavior and help kids feel they accomplished a task. Mentioning the possibility of a prize at the beginning of the appointment gives children something to look forward to and a reason to look forward to coming back for future visits.
Volunteer Beyond Your Office
Give Kids a Smile (GKAS) is held on the first Friday in February across the United States. GKAS is a day when volunteers come together to provide care to underserved children, as well as a positive, rewarding, and potentially their first, dental experience. There are many local organizations that participate in GKAS, so check to see if there are volunteering opportunities in your area.
- Encourage questions and conversations about dental health with hands-on tools.
- Teach children with resources like mobile apps and educational videos.
- Create a positive experience by awarding goody bags and prizes.
Why It's Important
By creating a positive and rewarding experience at the dental office, dental hygienists can make a lasting impression on how children view their oral health.