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I’ve often had this conversation with fellow parents: Pediatric or family dentist?
Some parents swear by their pediatric dentist. They feel they’ve chosen well by bringing their child to someone specializing in kids, and children receive their needed oral health check, sweetened with a dose of fun and entertainment. It’s certainly easier to get the kids in the car when you say balloons and computer games await them at the dentist’s office.
I, and others I know, have been just as comfortable taking the family to the family dentist. There are no contests, no clown visitors on special days, no trinkets; just a toothbrush, floss and toothpaste on the way out.
Pediatric dentists and their staffs, presumably, pursue their careers because they have a natural fondness for children. That’s not to say family dentists don’t enjoy working with youngsters. In fact, in treating the broad sweep of the family, from the young to the old and everyone in between, I believe family dentist practices have gleaned strategies for most occasions.
From chronicling their dental visits over the years, I could offer my observations, but I think the reviews that matter come from my kids, now “tweens.” While they offer respectful words about our dentist, their most vocal commentary is directed at that other key player, the hygienist. Their words of advice?
Ease up on the “poking” during cleanings.
And explain what is happening.
My kids say they’ve had some great hygienists, and some not-so-great, over the years. Proper and thorough teeth cleaning can be a little rough at times with an inadvertent poke here and there, but a hygienist working at the highest level should make “pokes” a rarity, followed by “so sorry!”
Explaining tools and actions in progress also helps quell fears of the unknown, according to north suburban dentist Fred Margolis, who has written and lectured widely on how to ease the fears of patients, particularly children.
He says his staff is trained in the “Show, Tell and Do Technique” to allay a child’s fears.
Showing the child an instrument, then explaining what is going to be done, and finally using the instrument reduces stress over what’s about to happen, he says.
It’s a lot of pressure on hygienists, who need to be able to take a skillful “read” of their young patients. Armed with a good nature and some relaxing banter, an intuitive and ideal hygienist can set a child at ease, tease out questions, impart some good advice on oral health care and set the table for a relaxed visit by the dentist.
A skillful, friendly and calm hygienist can make the difference between a pleasant visit to the dentist and years of a reluctant (or worse) patient.
The views expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily the opinions of the Chicago Dental Society. CDS presents Front Desk, a column addressing problems dentists and staff members experience in the office. Front Desk is prepared by Stephanie Sisk, a freelance journalist. Suggestions? Email suggestions for topics to be covered to the Chicago Dental Society. © 2013, Chicago Dental Society
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A tradition of working for the dental profession. The Chicago Dental Society was organized in 1864 and incorporated in 1878. The objective of the Chicago Dental Society is to encourage the improvement of the health of the public, to promote the art and science of dentistry and to represent the intrest of the members of the profession and the public that it serves.
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