One of the reasons families choose a pediatric dentist rather than a traditional practice for their children is that pediatric specialists are trained to work with children. This training includes a wide range of special techniques to encourage cooperation. Positive reinforcement from parents and dentists is one of the most important tools we can use–before, during and after the appointment– to make your child’s visit a success.
Is Rewarding My Child for Good Behavior a Bribe?
Positive reinforcement for cooperative behavior is a highly effective behavior management tool. A scientific study published in the journal respected journal Nature reinforces that positive reinforcement is one of the most successful techniques in behavior therapy. In the dentistry world, positive reinforcement isn’t about bribing. Instead, it’s about removing a sense of fear that can have a negative impact on an individual’s relationship with dentistry for their entire lives.
Positive reinforcement is also about creating a safe environment for patients since fearful and disruptive children are one of the biggest challenges dentists encounter. To encourage cooperation, we use time-tested strategies for rewarding good behavior and removing fear from the equation. In dentistry, this can absolutely include rewards and prizes, but we’ve found that supportive words are the very best kind of positive reinforcement.
Our staff has developed special terminology designed for pediatric dentistry practices that helps remove much of the fear factor for children. We are not in any way trying to trick your child, but instead are trying to take the negative associations out from dentistry and build a foundation of trust and security. We ask for support from parents in our choice of words and are happy to answer any questions. We’ve also found that verbal praise is the most important form of positive reinforcement at our disposal, so when your child is cooperative during her appointments, we let them know very clearly how pleased we are.
One of our most important strategies is our Show-Tell-Do approach that involves showing and explaining to children what we’re doing every step of the way. We also rely on cooperative patients support and encourage their peers by modeling good behavior in the dentist’s chair. Even the smallest detail like cool flavored fluoride treatments give children something to look forward to and a choice and a voice in their treatment. It’s a small but important way for your child to take ownership and build confidence during their visit.
Should I Come Back to the Dentist’s Chair with My Child?
We want children to feel safe, and parents are always welcome for every step of the visit. For our youngest patients, having mom or dad with them for the exam is usually best. However, once children reach the preschool and elementary years, it’s often better to have parents stay in the waiting room. Children sometimes ramp up disruptive behavior for their parents’ benefit and actually relax and communicate better with doctors and staff when their parents are not present.
Our all-female team is focused on child safety and making your child as comfortable as possible, and our team members are happy to answer any questions you have.
Model a Positive Approach
Children always pick up on their parents’ attitudes–spoken and unspoken. When getting ready for your child’s dental appointment, remember to stay positive. Make positive comments when you have your own dental appointments, and reinforce the idea of dental care as a way to stay healthy instead of something to be dreaded or feared. As mentioned above, join your pediatric dentist in focusing on positive words to lead to a positive outcome.
Thinking Positive at NOVA Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics
At NOVA Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics, we make rewards fun and meaningful. Our high-tech Patient Rewards Program goes way beyond the traditional dentist’s office treasure chest, and our patients love it. Our young patients earn points for great dental hygiene practices and orthodontic follow-up. Patients can also participate in contests and play educational games online. This program focuses on positive reinforcement and lets children take ownership of their dental care while learning about good practices through play. It brings a sense of enthusiasm for dental care that’s hard to imagine for adults used to old-school techniques and contributes to the positive, affirming atmosphere that makes our practice stand out.