According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), dental care is a medically necessary component of a child’s care and well-being. Dental care aids in the prevention and elimination of infection, orofacial-based diseases, oral pain, restoration of the form and function of the components of the mouth and surrounding areas, correcting oral and/or facial disfiguration and/or various types of oral health and/or facial dysfunctions.
Each pediatric dentistry professional is trained in both pharmacological and nonpharmacological-based behavior guidance strategies. These strategies are utilized in infants, toddlers, children, preteens, and teenagers to alleviate fear and anxiety, to create a positive attitude towards the dentist environment and practitioners, and to provide a sense of nurturing so that it is possible to perform oral health procedures in a safe and effective manner. Pediatric dentists have also been taught behavior guidance for children with special needs.
If you want your child to have a positive experience, you can rest assured that the pediatric dentist that they will meet with has been taught to deliver a positive experience through behavior guidance.
The Role of the Pediatric Dentist
Individuals that specialize in pediatric dentistry are expected to and professionally responsible for recognizing dental diseases and treating those diseases based on the skills and the knowledge that they acquired during the course of their college career.
These dental professionals know and understand that to safely and to effectively treat oral health conditions among infants, children, and teenagers that they must first have a solid understanding of a child’s and their family’s response to the need and importance of that care.
When educated on behavior guidance, pediatric dentistry professionals were taught to identify behaviors that are considered to be naturally appropriate and those that are deemed inappropriate. In turn, they help to outline those behaviors with their patients.
Purpose of Behavior Guidance in Pediatric Dentistry
The purpose and intent of the process of behavior guidance in the pediatric dentistry environment is to help the patient in the following:
- Learning strategies that place an emphasis on problem-solving
- In developing control over certain impulses that are considered to be detrimental towards their dental care and treatment
- To increase a patient’s confidence in the pediatric dentist and the staff
Tolerance and Flexibility
Pediatric dentists know, understand, and appreciate the fact that kids – in general – have an exceptionally broad range when it comes to the various aspects of their development – the physical, the emotional, the intellectual, and the social. Additionally, the temperaments and attitudes among kids vary immensely in diversity. As a result of these facts, dental professionals must have a large amount of behavior guidance methods at their disposal in order to ensure that the meet the unique needs of each child and their family.
Flexibility in the implementation of these techniques is an absolute must in the pediatric dentistry environment. Behavior guidance is not a group of strategies intended to simple “deal with” the underage patients; it is a continuous method that focuses on the development and the nurturing of the relationship that the child experiences with the pediatric dentistry professional and the staff within the dental environment. As this relationship expands, trust is built.
Eventually, the fears and anxieties experienced by the child and their family members is successfully eliminated. Behavior guidance strategies must be individualized for each pediatric patient based on their level of development, personality, and past dental experiences.
Example of Behavior Guidance Techniques
There are many different approaches to behavior guidance in the pediatric dentistry field. The following outlines common examples:
- When the pediatric dentist needs to perform a certain task, they will explain what they are going to do and what they need the child to do in order to be cooperative.
- The child’s body language is observed to properly assess their comfort level and their pain level. If the dentist identifies any form of discomfort, they will talk to the patient, identify the issue, and work to positively correct it.
- Professionals provide thorough descriptions and imagery to educate the child to ensure that expectations are set.
- The professional may deliberately alter the volume of their voice, the tone of their voice, and/or the pace in which they are talking to direct the child’s behavior in a positive and productive manner.
- Children are never belittled. Instead, their feelings, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are identified as being valued and they are provided with positive solutions for overcoming those that negatively impact their ability to receive the care in which they need to have optimal oral health.
The infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers that are treated by a pediatric dentistry professional must develop an open level of communication with that individual. The same holds true for the parents or guardian of the children that are treated.
It has been established that open communication aids in alleviating common fears and anxieties associated with dental care because it helps in developing a solid and trusting relationship. In the end, children and their parents are able to successfully develop a positive attitude about the pediatric dentistry environment, processes, and the staff that works within that environment.