A lot of kids look forward to the day when they finally get to have their braces put on. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for all of them. Either they may have a bad outlook on dental care in general, have fears related to discomfort, or even struggle with sensory issues when another person is working on their mouth.
Ask Lots of Questions
Orthodontic therapy can be just as much about a teen’s self-esteem as it is their dental health. During the initial exam or consultation, ask children what they like best about their smile, or if there’s anything they wish they could change. A concerned parent may think that diastema between 8 and 9 is a big concern, while your patient feels it adds character!
Connect with each child personally and add notes into his or her file to remember their interests or hobbies the next time you see them. Are they headed to the state soccer tournament? Did they get a new pet? Maybe they’re taking up a new hobby that they can’t wait to share. With all of the face-to-face time that you’ll be getting in the coming months, a personal connection is vital. With kids growing up in your office, they’ll usually leave as a “friend” once treatment is over with.
Let Them See the Pictures!
Kids love to see pictures of themselves. Whether it’s a profile shot for their digital file, a cephalometric x-ray, or a 3D digital scan, there’s something about being able to sit back and see what you “really” look like.
In orthodontics, we’re able to capture a number of different digital images, scans, photos, and gather other data that a general practice usually does not. With adults, it’s common to use these images to “co-plan” treatment, but we often overlook children’s interest in the same information. Just because they might not understand the same things an adult patient would doesn’t mean they aren’t beneficial during the orthodontic process.
Use pictures and non-invasive equipment to show kids what’s going to happen during the orthodontic application process. This is a great opportunity to have models on hand or before/after flip charts to go over.
Explain things in simple, easy-to-understand language that is age appropriate. Remember to leave out negative phrases like “hurt,” “sore,” etc. Stick with positive phrases that deflect anxiety and make things seem more straightforward. Talk through the treatment in a non-threatening manner, leaving “scarier” topics like surgery to private conversations with the parent.
Finally, talk the child through what’s going on during the actual braces application. They’ll hear you repeating what you’ve already discussed, so they know exactly what to anticipate.
Get Them Involved
Have a mirror handy during exams, so that kids can watch what’s going on, or even use a cheek retractor while you’re taking photos. With them being a part of the action, they’ll feel independent and responsible.
Some offices use mobile apps or iPads in the office with interactive videos to review home care, treatments, before-and-after shots, and what’s expected. Kids love high-tech tools, so these are a great resource to utilize in private practices…they also save time on patient education, so that your team doesn’t have to repeat the same thing 20 times each day.
Make Oral Hygiene Fun Again
One of the biggest challenges during orthodontic treatment is paying attention to good oral hygiene practices. Everyday brushing or flossing becomes mundane at times, especially if there are extra appliances to clean around or the child doesn’t already have good brushing habits.
You can encourage mom or dad to invest in special toothpaste, electronic toothbrushes, or water flossers to make tooth brushing a little more fun than it usually is. Or you can consider making these aids available as part of the package price of your treatment. When kids are the only one in the household to have a fun new dental “toy” to play with, they’ll be a bit more inclined to put it to good use.
Reward Good Behavior
Positive reinforcement is a great motivator for things like:
- Keeping your orthodontic appointments
- Showing up on time
- Maintaining good oral hygiene
- Wearing removable appliances or orthodontic aids as directed
- Eating foods that are safe for orthodontic appliances
- Following home care instructions
Consider offering quarterly rewards or drawings in your office. Let kids earn tickets or entries into the drawing when they do thinks like stay cavity free, have good brushing habits, keep appointments, etc.
Don’t forget about having a “hall of fame” on the wall. Kids usually love to have their photos taken. Consider asking them if they want their picture on the “new braces club” board, or on the wall with everyone’s “after” portrait. It’s an exciting thing to look forward to, once they do finally get their braces on.
Highlight Customized Appliances
From different shaped brackets to unique band colors, kids love to customize their smiles with their favorite school colors and more. Find out who their favorite sports teams are or show them which selections might go along with the current holiday. They’ll have something to look forward to at each appointment.
There are even companies now that allow orthodontists and dentists to use brackets that are shaped like stars, footballs, and other popular shapes. For someone who is going to be wearing appliances on their smile for several months at a time, this can add a fun twist on conventional orthodontic therapy.
Be There for Them
Attentive care is vital to running a successful orthodontic business. Your patients — whether adult or child — want an attentive staff and provider that pays attention to them. One of the ways you can do this is by offering accurate therapies that are carefully mapped out, for the most successful outcome possible.
At CephX, we utilize innovative AlgoCeph technology so that orthodontic providers around the world can access professional image analysis within a matter of minutes. The data is securely stored and backed up, so that you don’t have to worry about additional privacy concerns. Contact us today and schedule a consultation to learn more!