Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Setting your Child up for Success: Parent's Involvement in the Beginning of Orthodontic Treatment

Parents want the best for their children. The best education, the best career, being successful, happy, and of course, having a healthy and beautiful smile.. When your child gets braces, this can be a very exciting experience for the child, the parent, and in some cases, the entire family.

Parents think back to the way that dentistry used to be when they were kids, which was not that enjoyable in some cases. Dentistry and Orthodontics are constantly changing.  We want our patients to LOVE coming to see us, and we are proud to say that most of them do!

Some children need their parents to accompany them into the clinical area, but in most cases, the child is a lot more comfortable during the visit if their parents are not present. There are a number of factors to consider when preparing for the first visit or what is more commonly known as the “braces on” visit:

1.     Most children adapt very well to new surroundings and new things. Children are often at ease immediately upon entering the clinic because the staff at Orthodontic offices all love children and do an excellent job of highlighting the fun parts of the appointment and explaining the procedure in a kid-friendly and fun way. Parents try their best to prepare their children for the first visit, and although they mean well, parents can often dishearten their children based on the way they describe braces to their children. Parents often don't know the particulars of the appointment and end up unintentionally highlighting the wrong things when describing the “braces-on” visit. For example “Don't worry, it won't hurt.” Children immediately think “Should I worry, is this going to hurt? Why would he/she say that?”

2.     Parents are very interested in the braces-on procedure. They often don't intend to ask questions, but sometimes they can't help themselves and what ends up happening is if the parent comes in for the first appointment, the clinician's energy is divided between answering the parent's questions and the child. It is very important that your child is the clinician's number one priority during this time. At the end of the visit, there is time set aside for all questions and discussions about the new braces. It is in the best interest of your child that all questions are held until the end of the appointment in order to be as attentive as possible to the child, and focus on him/her as the number one priority throughout the appointment.

3.     When parents are in the operatory during the braces-on visit, this can also have a negative effect on the child's experience for one very important reason. Parents think that when they come in for their child's visit, they are being supportive. What they don't realize is that when their child is lying back in the chair, they can't see what is going on around them. As soon as the parent attempts to be soothing to the child (i.e. Holding the child's hand or touching their leg), the child interprets this as a situation where they should be afraid, like something scary is going to happen next that they can't see yet, so they can start reacting to this with things like crying, etc, that perhaps would have not happened if the parent was out in the sitting area.

4.     Many contemporary dental offices have open-concept operatories. This has been proven to ease the nerves of patients, especially children because they can see other patients around them at ease during their visits. With the open-concept set up, it is great when the parent comes back with them to watch them get started, then after a few minutes, wander back to the sitting room. The parent is more than welcome to come and check on their child every once in awhile.

In summary, the braces-on visit can be really fun and exciting for your child. After reading this information, try acting and speaking in ways that will positively affect them. During the visit, try leaving the room for most of the visit while “checking back” every once in awhile. This way, your child is at ease because they know you are around if needed, but the clinician is able to focus their energy solely on your child. When explaining braces to your children, try to use really positive and fun descriptions.  Tell them what the braces will do and if you do feel the need to inform your child about the braces-on visit, use descriptions like “It's like crafts, they have to use a special glue to stick on the braces, I hear it's really fun!”

Kids love braces these days, and with your help, all aspects of Orthodontic treatment can be fun and exciting for your child!

Jennifer Stretch, RDH
RiteBite Orthodontics


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