By Patricia McConnell, DDS, Appleton
When opening my Artistic Smiles Dentistry, SC office in Appleton, Wis. nine years ago, the intent was to let people know right away that our dental practice welcomes children.
The walls of a small room located just off the front door are decorated with underwater sea creatures – Nemo was popular then and the images are timeless.
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The room offers Lego and bead tables, television and DVD player where family movies play, books for children ages 1 to 10 and a comfortable, kid-sized bean bag chair. It takes just a few minutes at the end of each day for a team member to straighten up this area, including a disinfecting wipe down of the tables and chairs.
We invested in a digital camera and small table-top photo printer, so we can immediately take and print photos of children at their first and subsequent visits.
The photos are displayed on a large bulletin board in the kid-friendly room, so others can see the smiles of these young patients. After several months, a photo is removed, placed in the patient’s file and then given to the parent at the next dental visit to add to their family photo collection or the child’s “baby” book.
Remember to get parental permission before taking and displaying any child’s photo.
About three years ago, our team decided to focus its time and energies on making sure the practice was a dental home for all patients – including the very young.
We try and schedule our 1-year-old patients about 15 minutes before the office opens to other patients, because we know a young child’s crying can be alarming to older children and, at times, irritating to some adults.
We have developed a check-off sheet* that parents complete before the exam. It includes questions about snacking frequency, soda and juice consumption and teeth brushing practices, so I know what topics to counsel the parent on. The information also helps me determine if fluoride varnish is warranted. (I would be happy to share this sheet with other dental offices, just drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
I always do the knee-to-knee exam with the parent and child.
It’s an eye-opening experience when I use a cotton swab and apply disclosing solution to a child’s teeth. To date, every parent has been surprised when they see how much plaque is on their baby’s teeth!
I also do a toothbrush prophy and if there’s any bleeding of the gums, I explain that it is gingivitis. Parents are shocked to know any young child, but especially theirs, could have the start of gum disease!
Every parent and child gets a paper gift bag filled with American Dental Association brochures about children’s oral health and hygiene, “sippy” cup use and the importance of drinking fluoridated water whether from the tap or bottled. We include information sheets about healthy snacks, xylitol and the Wisconsin Dental Association’s Dental Home initiative.
A “tooth keeper” for the first lost tooth and practice promotional items like magnets and pens are added to each gift bag as appropriate for the patient’s age.
All Artistic Smiles Dentistry team members make it a point to talk with pregnant women and parents about the importance of a first dental visit by age 1, infant oral hygiene, brushing and flossing young children’s teeth and the value of regular dental visits for all family members.
The sharing of this information and caring interaction with children and their parents has helped Artistic Smiles Dentistry position itself as a child-friendly practice that strives to be a trusted dental home for patients of all ages.
*The Dental Record of WDA Professional Services sells 100-sheet tablets of caries risk assessment and two-part carbonless sets of 100 preventive recommendation forms developed by the WDA Dental Home Subcommittee. Call 800-243-4675 to order.