To become the #1 choice in your community, it is imperative that your dental practice is welcoming to everyone, no matter their age. While appealing to the adult crowd has its own set of essentials, the needs and wants of your pediatric guests require a different, more careful approach that can at times be difficult to navigate.
To ensure that you and your practice are truly creating a comfortable and welcoming place for children, we’ve assembled 6 simple tips to make your practice more inviting for pediatric patients. Parents and kids alike will thank you!
UNDERSTANDING DENTAL VISIT ANXIETY
It could be their first appointment or their tenth; the amount of visits doesn’t really matter. The feeling of anxiety being in an unfamiliar place is a constant reality for kids. This anxiety could stem from a bad experience at a previous office, feeling the nervousness from a parent, or just the apprehension that comes with a new and unfamiliar experience – and this anxiety is a sliding scale. From a bit of hesitancy all the way to downright dread, kids experience it all.
Providing a safe space and rolling out the welcome mat for kids requires sensitivity, kindness, and strategic planning. It’s about creating an environment that everyone will feel relaxed in, and let them know they’re with a trustworthy adult. It’s easier than you think!
Tip #1: Make the Wait the Most Fun Part of the Visit
The hardest part of a dental visit for many families is the minutes before the appointment itself. Since the wait is often unavoidable, use it to your advantage by setting the tone with a wow-worthy reception area. Think helpful, fun, and welcoming!
- Distractions are a must. Hands-on activities like gaming stations, books, coloring pages, or I Spy murals are enjoyable and distracting. If you have a designated play area – even better!
- Playful colors in the reception area can make the experience feel less daunting by creating a bright space. When paired with a fun sculpture, the decor is a great way to make your practice feel less like a medical office, and more like a fun day at a theme park. (Tip: Check out our blog on ideal dental office color schemes!)
- Arrange seating so parents/accompanying adults can stay engaged with their kids. Low seating can keep adults and kids at eye level, encouraging a feeling of security and comfort.
Tip #2: Try to Build a Friendly Bond with Them
From the moment a child walks in, a compassionate front staff member should take on the role of “Kids Concierge” to bring them in on the experience. If the reception staff extends less attention to the child over their accompanying adult, it can sometimes make them feel left out or ignored. The Kids Concierge is a quick fix to this problem.
- Encourage your Kids Concierge to step from behind the counter and physically greet pediatric patients. Getting on their level to exchange a fist-bump or handshake is a great way to build rapport and comfort, and make kids feel like they have a friend in the office. This staff member can engage with children from the moment they walk through the door, through the waiting process, and walk them to their chair.
- Establish trust by including the child in the conversation about their appointment. If they feel like they are part of the process, it can eliminate some of the fear of the unknown.
Tip #3: Be Confident
When children are anxious, they may not be overly enthusiastic to comply with directions. Be prepared! The right way to respond to “no” can be the difference between a negative and a positive experience.
- Be kind and patient.
- Be confident. Children will sense uncertainty and are looking to your team for guidance.
Tip #4: Explain the Experience
Most children come to an appointment with a preconceived notion of what a visit to the dentist entails. Media, stories from friends, or even anecdotes from parents can really impact a child’s perception negatively, so it is up to you and your team to put them at ease
- Provide a clear, easy-to-understand explanation of each step of their appointment.
- Avoid clinical dental-speak. For example, call an x-ray image just a “picture of a tooth” or something else that makes sense to them.
- Brainstorm with your team various creative words and phrases you can use to describe equipment, treatments, procedures etc.
Tip #5: Allow Them to Ask Questions
Giving children the freedom to ask questions is imperative. Kids are curious, and one of the ways they get comfortable in an uncomfortable situation is by asking their own questions and satisfying their curiosity.
- Establish permission to ask questions from moment one.
- Be curious about each of your pediatric patients. Ask about their hobbies, passions, games, sports – anything they’re interested in to open the conversation to inquiry.
- Be prepared! Find a way to get in the “know” with what the youth are into, so you can have engaging conversations and include references they’ll recognize while answering their questions.
Tip #6: End Visits on a High Note with Prizes
Reward good visits and soothe tougher visits with prizes! Place a visible prize box or toy vending machine near the front desk and have your Kids Concierge mention to the pediatric patient that after their visit they’ll be able to choose whichever prize they’d like. The simple fixation on a small but meaningful item will make the visit go by in a flash.
A tangible reward they can take home is also something they’ll remember long after the visit – creating a positive association with the dentist as opposed to a negative one. Parents can then lead up to their next appointment by reminding them of the awesome toy car or pretty ring they got the last time they saw your team.
Set The Tone and Follow Through
An outstanding patient experience for kids may seem difficult, but it’s all about making them feel welcome from the moment they walk through the door to the second they leave. Anxiety-free dental visits are priceless for families and parents, so we hope that these tips will help you create streamlined dental visits for all comfort levels.
Looking for more info? Check out more of our resources!
Set kids and their parents up for a lifetime of positive health outcomes. Create an environment that:
- Reduces patient anxiety and enhances their relaxation
- Primes kids and families for their appointments
- Promotes positive dental care experiences
Contact Imagination Design Studios (IDS) to get started transforming your office into an anxiety-free dental experience for kids.