How dentists should talk to children

How dentists should talk to children

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How dentists communicate with children
This year's Dental Health Day, which takes place on September 25th, focuses on the health of baby teeth. Regular visits to the dentist ensure that tooth decay and the like have no chance. But especially for children, the first visit to the dentist means a lot of new impressions and sometimes fear of the unknown. Communication plays a major role in making treatment as pleasant as possible, because nothing looks more threatening than dreaded words such as drills, syringes or pliers. Modern practices have therefore adapted their choice of words to the young patient group.

Dr. Birte Habedank, pediatric dentist in the KU64 dental practice in Berlin, explains which tricks dentists use to make a positive impression.

Tell, show, do
Communication with the children doesn't just start in the dental chair. Upon arrival in the practice, a friendly greeting to the little patients ensures that they feel good. When doctors go to the girls and boys at eye level, this behavior tells them that they are in the foreground today. During the treatment, dentists use the so-called "tell, show, do" technique. “This means that the dentist first explains the treatment steps and then demonstrates them on a hand puppet. The children can also help actively. Only then does the actual treatment take place. So we slowly introduce them to all the steps and get them used to the unusual situation, ”says Dr. Thank you.

Vocabulary suitable for children
While dentists explain to children what they will do, they also pay attention to their choice of words. Words such as drills or syringes sound threatening and cause panic in the little patient. Instead, dentists use child-friendly paraphrases. Instead of a drill it is called a crawler and the vacuum cleaner is given the name Schlurfi. If the doctor spins an imaginative story about the treatment and the instruments, this also distracts. "We avoid sentences like 'it doesn't hurt at all' because they direct the children's thoughts to potential pain. Instead, we use positive wording.

So we say that the tooth sleeps when we apply the so-called sleep jam, a local anesthetic gel, ”explains the KU64 dentist. If the little ones take part well by opening their mouths wide or holding out bravely, they get praise because they feel valued and stay motivated. Distraction during treatment also helps. In their practice, some dentists use flat screens on the ceiling, through which they play films that immediately draw the children's attention. Other practices work with toys such as a magic wand in which glitter particles float. After the treatment is over, the dentist often gives a small reward. This procedure completes the intervention positively and creates anticipation for the next visit.

role of the parents
Accompanying persons may of course be present in the consulting room, but should then remain calm, because the main person is sitting on the treatment chair. The adults discuss everything necessary before or after the examination, but not during the examination so that the child does not feel overlooked. “Parents often subconsciously transmit their own fear of the dentist to their offspring by reporting bad experiences. Such stories are better avoided by mother and father in the run-up to treatment so that their children are neutral towards the dentist and without fear, ”advises Dr. Thank you. Parents should also avoid threats such as “If you don't brush your teeth, the dentist has to drill”, since they anchor a negative image of the doctor in the child's head.

If the dentist and parents pay attention to their choice of words, avoid threatening words and respond to the children, the whole family can look forward to the visit to the dentist in a much more relaxed way.

Author and source information

Video: Look and feel young, go to the dentist. Dirk Neefs. TEDxAntwerp (May 2022).


  1. Rover

    Well done, your sentence is brilliant

  2. Adalwin

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