5 Goals for Improving Patient Experience in Your Pediatric Dental Practice

Like adults, children seek comfort and security in most situations. Dental care is no exception. That sets the bar high for improving patient experience in your pediatric practice.

An intentionally designed environment can help calm any fear, anxiety, or distrust of dentistry a difficult to treat child may bring to an appointment.

According to Jason Goodchild, DMD,

”When kids are relaxed and compliant, dentistry can be simple and fast. When they are not, that becomes a very different type of challenge,..” [1]

The Most Common Barriers Against Improving Patient Experience

The two challenges your patient experience must confront:

  • Behavior
  • Fear

Patient behavior can range from being uncooperative in the moment to general lifestyle issues that require consistent attention, or a previous bad experience to just a bad day.

Fear and anxiety also accompany many patients to dental appointments. These things are not always so much about dentistry as the overall anticipated experience and environmental perception.

Each time you meet these challenges with an increased sensitivity combined with a patient/kid-centric environment your practice grows and becomes placed in a top tier of providers. But how do you get there?


1. Make it Personal

2. Help Them Get Acquainted with Your Tools and Technology

3. Establish Trust Through Step-By-Step Communication

4. Use Kid-friendly Themes and “Distractions”

5. Think like a “Therapist”

1. Make it Personal

Young patients arrive thinking it’s all about their mouth, teeth, and gums. While that’s their personal expectation, there’s more to it than their oral health.

You can put them at ease by directing their attention away from their reason for being there during the first minutes of their chair-time.

  • Notice something about them and start your conversation/relationship there (e.g. shoes, color or type of clothing, etc).
  • Make the child comfortable by engaging with their parent or whoever accompanied them to the appointment.

Basically, shift the focus to them first. What will follow is likely to be a more comfortable…and compliant young patient.

2. Help Them Get Acquainted with Your Tools and Technology

Imagine what a dental chair and all your equipment looks like to a child. It’s often “scary” for an adult…so it’s no surprise that a child would have some hesitancy too.

Take the time to introduce them to the specific tools and technology you’ll be using for their appointment. Eliminating the unknown will help them relax and normalize the process.

  • Give your equipment “fun” names that helps lighten the mood prior to usage.
  • Allow your patients to ask questions about a particular tool or technology.

3. Establish Trust Through Step-By-Step Communication

Clear communication (without surprises) can help earn trust from your young patients. Think of it like a “show-and-tell” session at school.

  • “Show” them (within reason) what you’re going to do. Let them see the hand-piece, suction device, etc.
  • “Tell” them what’s about to happen next using non-threatening or non-aversive language.

4. Use Kid-friendly Themes and “Distractions”

A kid-centric environment sets the tone from the moment a family arrives, parks, and walks in your door. Attention to details from theming to hands-on amenities will help them relax ahead of and during their appointments.

  • Theme your office with non-threatening, light-hearted, kid-themed decor.
  • Create an environment from curb to chair that provides kids and families a memorable and comfortable experience at each appointment.
  • Provide access to kid-friendly programming in your reception area and your treatment rooms.
  • Use technology kids are accustomed to. Games, images, streaming video, etc help them relax and feel at-home in your dental office.

Use low-tech options such as take-home coloring sheets, books, and kid-centric publications.

5. Think like a “Therapist”

Certainly, your skill set is dentistry. But adding some behavior-management skills can help you help boost your authority and handle those challenging moments.

Patience, good communication skills, and an objective amount of good old-fashioned parental presence can improve patient experience.

  • Talk eye-to-eye with your pediatric patients. Get on their level and speak their language.
  • Liven up your conversations with stories, a light-hearted tone, and anything that helps your patients feel comfortable and at-ease.
  • Ask about their life, their interests, sports, school, etc.


Outstanding patient experience for children and families begins with a kid-centric mindset and environment. In essence, it’s an investment decision.

Invest in Your Patients

Valuing your patients and their families sets them up for a lifetime of positive health outcomes. And the environment you create can help you achieve a better patient experience.

  • Reduce patient anxiety and enhance their relaxation
  • Prime patients and families for their appointments
  • Create positive dental care experiences

Invest in Your Business

Maintain your edge in the crowded dental service space. Attention to details in your space can transform your environment and the overall patient experience…especially in a pediatric practice.

  • Create “buzz” in the community you serve
  • Accelerate patient referrals
  • Generate positive online reviews

Check out these related resources for upgrading, renewing, and improving patient experience:

What is Patient Experience and Why Does It Matter?

How Theming Creates the Ultimate Brand for Your Business

A Practical Guide to Creating an Exceptional Patient Experience

Contact Imagination Design Studios (IDS) to get started transforming your office from a mundane to magical patient experience.

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[1] https://www.dentalproductsreport.com/view/10-ways-simplify-pediatric-dentistry

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