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working with children as a dental assistant

we understand that one of the most important aspects of your role as a dental assistant is the desire and ability to work with patients. graduates of eastern college of health vocations who work in general dental practices, and especially those who end up as assistants in orthodontic and pediatric dental practices, have the pleasure — and at times, the challenge — of working with younger patients. many of our grads have told us what a rewarding experience it can be to work with children.


in pediatric dentistry, building the trust of the young patients is critical to their overall experience, and often this trust begins with the dental assistant. it can help form a bond with the patient that lasts long after the procedures are finished.


february is actually national children’s dental health month, so it’s a perfect time to mention managing pediatric patients here in our blog. here are a few pointers for students taking the dental assistant career path on how to manage younger patients, from tots-to-teens.


speak their language


it’s quite common for kids to feel nervous about visiting the dentist, especially if it is their first time. the sights and sounds may be off-putting at first, and for the very young patients who may not even be able to talk yet, using nonverbal-communication, like smiling and relaxed body language, may help calm them.


with 6-12 year old patients, speaking with kid-friendly, less scary language can make all the difference. for instance, instead of referring to x-rays, say “a picture of your teeth” and when mentioning the drill, say special toothbrush or “spin-brush”.


distraction action


as adults, when we feel nervous, we’ll read a book, watch tv or listen to music to help lower our stress level. we use them as distractions. similarly, for children between the ages of 6 and 12, using visual aids or telling a story in the dental office can be an effective distraction or behavioral-guidance technique. for the younger kids, you could offer a coloring book page featuring their favorite character. a dentist we are quite familiar with has his dental assistant squeeze the hand of the patient firmly, just as he is about to give an injection. the child is distracted by the sensation and hardly realizes they have been given the shot. distraction is a great tool in the dental assistant’s arsenal.

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