09 Sep 6 Tips on Managing Children in a Dental Surgery
Ideas from Dental Nurses who are also Mums
(By Charlotte Taylor)
Badly managed children are a nuisance and a danger in a dental surgery. Even the most well-behaved children can become bored while Mum or Dad are receiving treatment. Here are some options to help keep them safe and occupied.
Managing children in a dental surgery is a nightmare. You want them there to help develop the habit of regular check-ups in the future as well as ensure their current oral health. But left unsupervised they can become a nuisance to other patients and a danger to those around them.
“It’s a real safety issue,” one nurse told us. “I’ve even seen one child come within seconds of setting off the fire extinguisher in my surgery while her Mum was in the chair.”
Our ‘Top Tips’
So how do you keep children occupied and safe? Here’s our top six tips from some dental nurse friends who also happen to be Mums.
1The first thing to do is make sure that your reception team understand the needs of parents with children. It’s not until you have children of your own that all that ‘stuff’ comes naturally to you. However, it’s not until you’ve experienced it going wrong that you understand what it means to a dental surgery. Try to ensure receptionists think about the extra time and cash pressure on parents, e.g., child minders.
2Make sure your receptionists explain how long procedures will take and to ask parents to make childcare arrangements for long procedures. Suggest treatment times for treatments with phrases like; “Would it be easier if I can find an appointment time when you don’t need to bring the children with you?” If they have school-age children, try to find appointments for parents in the middle of the school day so they have plenty of time around drop-off and pick-up times.
3Most reception areas have a ‘Play Area’ to help keep children occupied. But have you ever sat and played in yours? They are usually as dull as ditch-water, and frequently topped with a note demanding parents clear up after their child. Forget it. It might be an extra five or 10 minutes work, but make it‘s a staff job to keep the area safe, not the patient’s.
4Too many play areas cater for a narrow age range. Ensure a broad selection of toys, games and book to entertain the variety of children who attend the surgery.
Try to encourage children to stay out of the surgery if they are not there for their own treatment. However, some children can’t be left outside – such as small babies. Make it part of the de-con nurse’s duties to offer assistance with the baby if it becomes distressed. The last thing you want is Mum or Dad becoming agitated by a crying baby. A distracted dentist or nurse is less than ideal too.
5Some organisations have released digital games and apps that kids can play on mobile phones or tablet computers. The Plaque Attack from MyDentist is a great example. Innovations like Philips’ connected toothbrushes also show how technology-savvy children of 5-plus might enjoy future trips to the dentist
Get it all over at once! Set-aside October Half-Term week and a week of the Easter school holiday as ‘Kids check-up week’.
6You can promote the event to encourage parents to book, and reward children who attend with age-appropriate gift packs containing tooth charts, games, tooth pastes etc. Get it right and it will become habit forming, and the resulting pester-power will ensure regular attendance.
Send us your ideas for keeping children safe and occupied. We’ll publish the best comments on our social channels and maybe revisit this article in the future.