“COVID sucks.” “I wish the virus would go away.” “I want things to go back to the way they were.” These are comments I hear almost every day from my pediatric patients, who range in age from 3 to 21. COVID-19 has impacted everyone, including our pediatric patients.
The pandemic has led to changes in school schedules, recreational activities, family vacations, and wearing a mask wherever we go. Pediatric dental hygienists—and I maintain that any hygienist who has ever treated a pediatric patient is a pediatric hygienist—should remember these young, resilient patients, and try hard to be understanding and make the new normal as comfortable as possible for them.
Here are tips for keeping your pediatric patients and their parents informed and at ease.
Be open to show and explain
Be willing to show your pediatric patients and their parents how your office is keeping everyone safe. Show, describe, and talk about the added personal protective equipment (PPE) you use. You can start by saying, “Wearing this full-length gown, extra mask, and face shield are just some of the things we do to be safe for you, us, and our families.”
Be creative and have fun with your PPE. Our pediatric office that has added superhero emblems, such as Batman and Wonder Woman, to our full-length gowns. One of the doctors wears a fun face shield with fox ears and a nose decal sticker. The kids love it!
Taking temperatures and using hand sanitizer can be fun, learning experiences. When calling your patients back for their appointments, tell them how special they are and that you work to make sure they stay in good health before, during, and after their dental appointments. I use the opportunity to take temperatures and clean hands to explain the importance of making sure they’re healthy.
Taking the time to show pediatric patients their temperature readings allows for them to feel involved in their care and have an understanding of their safety. If someone is nervous, it’s a great idea to scan the parent or guardian’s temperature first to show how easy it is. You wouldn’t believe how many of my patients have had their temperatures taken for other appointments but have no idea why or what it means.
Don’t forget the reward
Pediatric dental visits are built on choosing and celebrating that special reward after a great dental visit. If possible, do not get rid of prizes but instead have prepared goodie bags filled with a toothbrush, toothpaste, stickers, and prizes. Bags can be assembled ahead of time and our practice separates bags by ages—two and under, three to six, and seven-plus).
Remind parents to be cautious of unhealthy eating
Many children are homeschooled, attend school virtually, or attend hybrid school. Depending on a family’s situation, these decisions are made for reasons much different than in previous school years. With more young patients at home, it’s important to encourage parents to have healthy snacks on hand and to remind their children to drink plenty of water. Even teenage patients need a helpful nudge on this. Many middle and high school patients are staying up later and need a friendly reminder to avoid late night snacking and to make time for nighttime brushing, flossing, and rinsing.
Even during the pandemic, pediatric dental hygienists can make visits fun and informative for our patients and their parents.