12 Tips to Make Your Dental Practice Child-Friendly

March 1, 2017 Rieva Lesonsky

Attracting children to your dental practice is a great growth strategy. By developing a relationship with young patients early, you can keep them for a long time. If you want to appeal to children and parents (or even become a pediatric-focused dental practice), you need to make sure your practice is child-friendly and inviting to both kids and their parents. Here are 12 suggestions for creating a child-friendly dental practice.

  1. Create a child-friendly waiting room. Ease young patients into the dental visit with a welcoming area complete with child-sized furniture, children’s books and magazines, and some sturdy toys. (Why not get some books about what to expect at the dentist’s office?) A television playing child-friendly movies such as Pixar or Disney animated films will entertain young patients. Aquariums are popular with children and adults alike—they provide a calming environment and a welcome distraction in the waiting room.
  2. Make the treatment area appealing to children. Consider installing TV screens over the dental chairs and letting children choose from appropriate programming. You can also let children bring a favorite toy into the exam area, or even provide a stuffed animal, toy or blanket to comfort young patients.
  3. Should you let parents into the treatment area? This depends on the parents. Some parents who have dental anxiety themselves may make their kids even more nervous. However, if you think it will help, feel free to welcome parents to sit nearby where children can see them.
  4. Treat children with respect. Even if parents don’t come into the treatment area, start the visit by introducing yourself to the parent so the child will feel safe with you. However, follow up by introducing yourself to the child.
  5. Explain what you're doing. Don’t talk down to or patronize the child, but do explain procedures to them in child-friendly terms. Don’t introduce the idea of fear or pain to young patients. Instead, explain what you are going to do and why in language they can understand. For instance, before X-rays you might say, “This big camera will take pictures of your teeth so we can see how healthy they are.”
  6. Give them options when possible. Having a choice makes children feel important. For example, you can ask the child to choose which flavor of fluoride they want or what TV show they want to watch. Children will feel more invested in the process if they get to have some say in decisions.
  7. Create a “treasure chest.” Buy small, appropriate toys or tooth-friendly treats and put them in a box for children to choose from after the appointment. Remind the child of the upcoming reward to encourage good behavior during the treatment.
  8. Make it fun. Hold coloring, word search or drawing contests for young patients and offer a prize each month to the winner. This can keep kids entertained and make them look forward to their next visit. You can also take photos of young patients—just be sure to ask parents before sharing them on social media.
  9. Be respectful of the family’s time. Parents may want to bring multiple children in at once to ease scheduling and avoid making separate trips. Offering block appointments where you fit in more than one child in a family at the same time can be very appealing to parents.
  10. Help parents prepare. When you send an appointment confirmation email or text, also send the parents information about preparing their child for the dental visit. Lighthouse 360 makes it easy to send parents customized communications.
  11. Reach out to parents with email marketing. Share tips on children’s dental health, how to get kids to brush and floss, prevent tooth decay and other topics of interest to parents. Use the Lighthouse 360 email feature to segment your email lists and send targeted email messages.
  12. Last, but not least, be sure to promote your office as child-friendly in your social media outreach, marketing efforts and on your website.
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