Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Pediatric Language

Which sounds better to you:

“I am going to squirt some sleepy juice on your lip to make it go to sleep. Then we are going to wash out the cavity bugs with this water. After I wiggle on this other tooth to see if it is loose, we can go get a toy”. Or-

"After I give you a shot of Novocaine with this needle, we are going to drill on this tooth to remove the carious lesion. Then we will put in the restorative material. Then I am going to pull out this other tooth”. --Now just wait a minute!

The words you use make all the difference. I often have parents look right a the child and say, “Are you going to have to give him a shot?" or “It’s ok Johnny, the shot won’t hurt a bit.” and “Do you want him to pull out your tooth today?” Wrong , wrong, wrong. These parents in a misguided attempt to help their child or to be “honest” with their child, have set up anxiety that will make treatment much more difficult. I cringe along with the assistants when a parent uses these no-no words in front of the child. Yes, with some kids words alone will not suffice. Sometimes we need other measures like sedative medications, Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas), or any of a hundred other techniques. It's all hopefully adapted for the individual child, what works best for him.

Whatever words we use with children we do try and be “honest”, but we use words that communicate what we are doing in a way they can understand and produce the least amount of anxiety. “I am going to squirt sleepy juice, I am going to wiggle on the tooth and wash out the cavity bugs”. Using the proper words can increase the chance of a good outcome. Now with older kids I might use different terminology than with a preschooler, but the same method still applies. I can’t really explain every behavior management technique here as it sometimes is quite the art rather than a science, but I do know all pediatric dentists learn early on how to use language to make the children have a more pleasant experience. Unfortunately we are so used to using language a child can understand we find ourselves talking that way in front of friends or family..Ha! I even have to be careful the parents understand what treatment I am recommending. "Why are you just going to wiggle on the tooth? I want you to pull it." Good grief.

Very often I have a child in the chair whose parents or siblings have prepared him properly. They have used proper terms or even told him nothing about the visit or at least done nothing to hinder the process. Once I am through, the child says something like “When are you going to take out my tooth?” Well, it’s already out. I have it over here so you can take it home to put under your pillow.” “Really? Wow!”


Anonymous said...

I know this is an old post, but I would LOVE to get some suggestions on specific language I can use to prepare my 5 1/2 yr old for getting her baby teeth pulled. She is very anxious about all the changes happening in her body right now, and she is very worried EVERYTHING is going to hurt. Do I just not tell her the dentist is going to pull teeth? Do I just tell her he's going to wiggle them (she associates this with pain)? I'd LOVE any suggestions!

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

Well, I do not have any majic words to use. The dentist will usually find what works for him most of the time. I usually say something that is in general truthful just not as threatenting. Some kids are really excited about loosing a tooth, others not. If there is lots of anxiety, sometimes it's best not to say much of anything and just behave as if it is a normal kind of thing. Worst case, they might punt and try some kind of medicationbeforehand--no biggie if that is needed-most do not need that.

Mama26kids said...

I think you can tell a child the truth and prepare them for pain and procedures with out lying and using fake 'kiddie' words that confuse them. This is just setting kids up to not believe in the dental and medical system as a whole, and I guess that's good because the current medical and dental system stinks!

wiggle that!