Since becoming a registered dental hygienist 33 years ago, I have had the privilege of working with and learning from two amazing restorative family dentists. During the first 13 years of my career, I was a student of total mouth reconstructions that these clinicians were skillfully performing. Both practices had been established decades before I started by previous dentists who were legendary in their communities. Hence, the patients’ ages ranged from 3 to 103! I loved both practices, learning through my experience there, and I enjoyed caring for the folks who trusted me. But, I am going to let you in on a little secret…
My Little Secret
It can be extremely challenging to treat children in a general practice! Yes, I admit it! Mind you, I gave 100% of my time, skill, and positivity when I saw a pediatric patient. But it always seemed like the patients were bored, frightened, or out of place in an office centered around some of the most sophisticated adult restorative dentistry available at the time. I was constantly waiting for the dentist to break away from a delicate adult procedure to examine these kids, and I would always entertain them while we waited. But my repertoire was limited.
I took a break from clinical hygiene when my twin sons were born, but at their 1st dental appointment in a pediatric practice, the dentist asked me if I would be interested in filling in for his hygienist the very next week. I almost said “No,” but what a foolish mistake that would have been, because what I was about to discover was going to change the course of my entire career!
The first day I “temp’d” in a pediatric dental office changed my life forever. I saw children that were happy, entertained, and participating in their own care. I genuinely enjoyed cleaning these kids’ teeth! Talking to them and their parents about home care was really fulfilling. No more tears! And even though I offered my time, skill, and positivity exactly as I had in the family practice, these kids were responding differently. This got me thinking about the differences between the two practices. Hmm…
The “Pediatric” Difference
The first difference I noticed in the pediatric dental office was the environment. Walls were painted with fun and soothing colors. There were toys everywhere! As I began to temp in other “pedo” practices, I began to realize that virtually everything was geared towards children— from the TV channels, books and magazines, movies, video games, and more! The staff did not need to entertain the patients, because the whole place was about them!
Another thing I noticed: the open floor design of many pediatric offices allowed children to see other children during treatment, which fostered reduced anxiety when it was time for them to be seen. The “Tell, Show, Do” approach to learning becomes even smoother as they see others learning as well. The “if that kid can do it, then so can I” mindset takes over, which often leads to great success as they begin to learn how to take great care of their teeth!
Pediatric dental practices see kids all day, everyday. Most family dentists might treat a couple of children a day, and some none at all. A pediatric practice is centered around the treatment, comfort, and support of patients under 21 years of age. A pediatric dentist completes 2 years of full-time residency instruction after dental school to specialize in the treatment of primary and mixed dentitions. The staff in a pediatric office undergoes training focused specifically on treating young patients. They are adept at recognizing conditions requiring orthodontic evaluation. They select materials and methods suited for the specific age of each young patient. There is a definite difference in style, approach, and expertise as compared to that of a general dental practice.
My New Secret
Today, I feel very fortunate to practice as a pediatric dental hygienist at Tebo Dental. I LOVE working in a pediatric dental office— treating, educating, and comforting kids and their parents all day long! My ‘New Secret’ is that I would be thrilled to care for children for the rest of my career!
If you have a child, I would absolutely recommend hopping on Google to find a pediatric dental office near you that has a good review rating. These reviews cannot be altered by any business and usually, an office with about a 4-star rating and several recent reviews has a strong likelihood of being a place that you and your family will enjoy visiting.
As a parent myself, if I noticed the difference of a pediatric office, I’m sure you and yours will, too.