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Basic Techniques for Management of the Infant and Toddler Dental Patient

Course Number: 54

Introduction of the Dental Experience

Adults interacting with children must realize children view their surroundings from a different perspective than they do on both a psychological and physical level. Because of limited life experiences children may be more frightened when faced with a new and strange situation, resulting in a greater necessity for desensitization and appropriate terminology. Since children are smaller in stature and height their visual perception of their surroundings are different than adults.

When interacting with a young patient, the dentist tries to physically come down to the child’s level by sitting rather than standing. In addition, the dentist relaxes the patient by talking to the child in a soft welcoming tone, using simple language the child can easily understand and then slowly drawing the patient to them by taking their hand.

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Communication is the most important role in guiding behavior in young children. You need to establish communication with a simple conversation by talking about something familiar to them. It can be as simple as asking their favorite cartoon character or color or what they did earlier that day.

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As the conversation progresses, you can begin to introduce more information about today’s appointment such as:

communicating with patient

“ Hi Maria, I’m Dr. Katie. I like your red shoes. Is that your favorite color? Guess what, it is mine too. Today we are going to count and tickle your teeth so we can give you princess sparkles? Can you sit up in the chair please? It is a special chair that goes up like an airplane. Let’s first count your fingers. Great, you have 10 fingers (Counts patients fingers on each hand). The next thing we need to do is count your teeth. Do you know how many teeth you have? That was a great guess. I’m going to turn on my bright sunshine light so I can see your smile better because your mouth can be dark like a cave, and I’m going to see how many teeth I can find in there (The process is repeated using a tooth counter (explorer).”

By this time the patient should be comfortable enough to proceed with toothbrush instruction and if necessary, a rubber cup prophylaxis and fluoride treatment.

If radiographs are deemed necessary, the reader is referred to the CE course Radiographic Techniques for the Pediatric Patient, in the Continuing Education library. If treatment is necessary at a subsequent visit, similar techniques may be used to desensitize the patient to restorative procedures.