Family Dental Care Through the Years

DATE: May 12, 2017 
AUTHOR: Jen Collins,RDH

Family dental care is rewarding, especially as you watch patients grow up in your practice. However in a family practice, your patients can be at very different points in their lives. The care you provide for a small child is different to the care you would provide for a teenager or an adult. Here are some tips on how to start patient relationships on the right foot, instill life-long good habits and foster great relationships that will thrive for years, or even decades!

Children

Preparing patients for their first visit is important for a successful family dental care visit. Asking many questions and gathering information will help in making your patient feel most comfortable. Encourage young children to brush their teeth and then show them with a mirror how you can help them achieve a healthy smile.

Once they reach age 10 and older, kids become more independent. At this age, ask young patients to show you how they brush. Now that they don't necessarily have their parents watching over their shoulders during their twice-daily oral care routine, it is key for pre-teens to learn how to brush and floss on their own.

Teens

Providing treatment to adolescents brings with it several challenges in communication, especially due to teens' short attention spans and tricky attitudes. Providing family dental care to this particular age group often means keeping instructions short and to the point. Showing adolescents home care via technology, such as Gum Health Physical, will easily provide a quick, thorough explanation of your findings. The teenage years are also a great time to be on the lookout for any areas of concern, such as erosion.

Adults

Dental care during adulthood can come with many challenges since age, medications and your patients' history of complex dental issues have an impact on their oral health and the care they need.

Visual representations are helpful for adults. As seen in Dimensions of Dental Hygiene, digital dental imaging is one of the best patient education tools. Using images to document plaque, calculus, decay and more is important for patient acceptance of conditions and treatment. For example, an intra-oral camera is a perfect way to show poor oral hygiene. When patients see their teeth on a big screen, they often want to know how they can improve their current home care routine. Having the patient "co-diagnose" is a positive motivator for improved oral health.

And as patients age, especially when they're over 60, taking even better care of their teeth is vital, according to the American Dental Association. Many patients take at least one prescription medication which, depending on the medication, means the patient may have xerostomia and therefore be at greater risk for dental caries. Having an understanding of your patients' overall health is necessary to be able to offer them the best care.

The Whole Family

When you see the same people every six months or so, you have a really great opportunity to understand patients. If you take care of the father, you can use that knowledge to keep tabs on his son's oral health. Your patients love sharing their lives outside the office. Through their stories and updates, you catch a glimpse into all kinds of milestones: graduations, weddings or the birth of the first grandchild. Helping people and seeing them grow is one of the best rewards of the dental hygiene profession, so try to really foster these relationships.

Takeaways

  • Tailor your education techniques to your patient's age to instill life-long good oral care habits.
  • Use visual representations and demonstrations to encourage good oral hygiene.
  • Stand back and appreciate all the great work you do and how you help your patients over the years!

Why It's Valuable

Providing excellent care not only improves patients' oral health, it helps to result in patients of all ages following your recommendations thanks to positive and helpful dental appointments.