What is Behavior Guidance?
Pediatric dentistry is an age-defined clinical specialty of dentistry. The science behind pediatric dental care is based on behavior guidance that teaches children to understand the importance of dental care and relate positively to the dentist. Practicing sound psychological principles will allow children to have a positive and pain-free experience in the dentist’s chair. It is important for the behavioral guidance to continue at home by forming good oral hygiene habits.
Why is it important?
Children that start dental care at an early age are more likely to develop better habits as adults with their oral health. The science of pediatric dental care is an equal mix of psychology and dentistry. Providing the child with a positive experience will help aid in their long-term care.
A common obstacle to effective patient management is poor communication. Dentists utilizing child-friendly terminology may have good intentions but if used incorrectly, can hinder the child’s comprehension. Modern technology has provided dentists with useful software and content that can properly educate a child about their procedure. The combination of compassion, patience, and education can instill a lifetime of positive dental experiences.
What can parents do?
It is important for parents to establish the main goals of behavioral guidance in dentistry. Understanding why a dentist would use behavioral guidance with a child can be beneficial and shape healthy practices at home. The main goals include:
- Establishing communication
- Alleviating fear and anxiety
- Providing quality dental care
- Building trust with the child
- Promoting a positive attitude toward oral health care
Since every child is different, pediatric dentists have a wide range of approaches to behavioral guidance. Children typically respond to unfamiliar locations, like a new dentist’s office, in the same way as other unfamiliar places. Some children can be fearful or uncomfortable in new environments. Establishing early and regular dental visits will alleviate the unfamiliarity with the dentist. Children also respond well to positive reinforcements and distractions. Make the dentist’s office a fun place by rewarding the child for their behavior. Distractions such as music, movies, or games during the visit can also greatly improve the child’s overall experience and mentality towards dental visits.
Parents should model good behavior for their children. When children can see and hear a dental visit in a positive fashion, they may become more relaxed and inclined to cooperate after seeing their parents receive dental care. Older siblings can also be positive role models for younger children to watch prior to their appointments. Modeling positive behavior may need to be done on a reoccurring basis in order to have an effect on the child’s mentality.
Additional Pediatric Guidance
Aside from behavior guidance, preventive dentistry also has a significant impact. A child’s first dental visit should be around the time of their first birthday. Best practices for their first visit includes setting an appointment during a time when the child is alert and not tired. Provide the dentist with the child’s complete medical and dental history. Parents should consider visiting the office or website prior to their first appointment to familiarize themselves with the practice. Prior to the first teeth in a child’s mouth, a parent can clean the baby’s mouth with a wet washcloth after feedings.
Taking preventive measures, forming good habits early on, and utilizing behavioral guidance techniques will significantly benefit children. Be accountable for children’s oral health outcomes and teach them the responsibility of dental health. Forming an effective collaboration with a pediatric dentist will maximize the utility of both biological and behavioral science.