Even if you aren’t working at a pediatric dental practice, you will likely have to adapt to caring for toddlers. Having the skills and knowledge to deal with scared, irritable children will help grow your practice. 

Using toddler psychology to gain trust and cooperation during the hygiene visit is the key to developing a great patient-clinician experience throughout childhood.

Valerie Seger teaches how to be comfortable treating toddlers in the hygiene chair in a general practice and how to educate caregivers in oral home care, diet, and caries prevention in her training video on DentalHub360.com. 

Assess the toddler’s behavior Immediately. 

As soon as a toddler walks into your practice for a cleaning or treatment, assess their behavior. If they are climbing all over their parents, distract them and make them feel comfortable. 

This could be something like letting them pick out their favorite color toothbrush, or pick out a toy from a toy chest. It is worth it to invest in cheap little toys to help distract toddlers from their anxieties. 

If they can't settle into a chair themselves, let them sit on their parents' lap for comfort.  Allow your toddler patient to pick out a toothbrush or toy every time they sit in your chair. This will give them a sense of familiarity.  

Start with preventative care. 

Typically, most general dentists don’t get a lot of training when it comes to caring for children. Usually, clinical hours don't train you on behavior management skills. But this doesn’t reduce the importance of learning these skills. 

Education starts in your general practice and can help your practice grow. 

These preventative measures should be taught to pregnant mothers before their baby is even born. This is because the mother can be implementing oral health habits as soon as their baby is born like wiping their baby's gums after breastfeeding. 

Early childhood cavities are the number one child illness in the U.S. today. This is preventable. Talk to the child’s parents about getting an electric toothbrush. This will allow the toddler to get used to different sensations and sounds before they get into the office. 

Practice brushing as soon as one tooth grows in. Communicate to the child’s parents the different oral habits and diet restrictions that can help prevent cavities early on. 

Show, tell, do. 

If you have interacted with a toddler before, you likely know they tend to respond best to visual examples. That is why the “show, tell, do” system works wonders when trying to explain to one how to brush their own teeth.

Depending on how young the child is, they probably won’t be brushing their own teeth for a while. It is important to also “show” their parents or legal guardian how they can help their toddler brush their teeth. 

It is also important to “tell” children what to do in terms that they can understand and relate to. Use simple, and fun terms that will interest them. You can get them excited to brush their teeth by telling them they need to brush the “sugar bugs” out. This will help make it a fun and comfortable experience for them.

Make them feel good about their visit.

Make sure to congratulate your little patient on completing their visit. Even if they were upset and overwhelmed, congratulating them will make them feel good about their experience in your office. 

If they leave feeling good about themselves, with a toy in hand, they likely won’t remember if they were initially afraid. This will give them a good connotation of going to the dentist’s office, and they may even be excited for their next visit. 

Do you need to grow more comfortable treating toddlers?

Easy to understand verbiage along with humor and relatable objects create trust and cooperation. Toddlers are just little adults and understanding this we are able to develop greater knowledge of how to simplify appointments and make it fun, easy, and enjoyable for everyone.

If you are interested in learning more about how to successfully treat toddlers in your practice, check out Valerie Seger’s training video on DentalHub360.com.