10 Strategies For Handling Parents Of Your Pediatric Patients

by Brenda McNulty, Jameson Advisor, Jameson Management

Pediatric patients in the dental office create an interesting environment that can be both exciting and chaotic. Often times, the parents can be far more dramatic than the patients themselves. Parents are trusting your office with their most prized possession. It is imperative for teams to connect both with the parents as well as with the patients. A successful practice with pediatric patients takes into consideration the parent perspective on a daily basis.

Strategy #1 – Clear expectations of the office should be communicated and agreed upon before procedures are initiated. Some providers feel strongly that parents do not belong in the treatment rooms while others appreciate the parent’s presence. You get to decide what works best for your office. Parents need to know these expectations prior to scheduling with your office. Know the benefits and disadvantages for both stances and be able to verbalize these to your potential new patients.

Strategy #2 – Be sensitive to the emotional state of the parents when discussing treatment. Parents often believe that they have failed when they hear that their child have dental disease. Validate the positives and accentuate their decision to seek dental care. Provide education without judgement. It is imperative that you provide the parents with the tools necessary to appropriately care for their children’s teeth from this point forward.

Strategy #3 – Make it an experience for both the parents and the child. Allow the parents to enjoy some luxuries such as a coffee bar or massage chairs while they wait for their precious youngster. Have comfortable chairs in the reception area and harder chairs in the treatment rooms as a technique to discourage parents from accompanying their child into the clinical area.

Strategy #4 – Demonstrate true concern for the patients overall dental health. As the dentist you must receive the parents trust, like and confidence before they will eagerly accept your recommended treatment. Explain the benefits of the procedures and the projected outcome from both completing and not completing the treatment prior to discussing any financial liabilities for the parents. Parents who are educated about the procedures are far more likely to accept the treatment regardless of the costs associated with those services.

Strategy #5 – Be worth the ticket to the dental show. Create value for your services by explaining each action. Utilize a tell-show-do approach while generating a fun factor whenever appropriate. Their child’s dental visit will cost them more than a ticket to Disneyland. Help your team understand that from the moment they enter the door they are on stage. Parents see all and hear all. Hire “Tiggers” for your office and let the “Eyores” remain at home. Team members who exhibit a true passion for their patients and their profession build relationships. Dental skills can be taught so hiring for attitude and personality may pay off in the long run.

Strategy #6 – Help your parents schedule successfully for their child. Have the school schedules available for your parents to review when reserving time with your office. Make note of important school obligations such as state testing and inform the parents when they are attempting to reserve time with the doctor during these crucial attendance periods.

Strategy #7 – A parent may have a need to have someone other than themselves bring the child to their dental appointments. Be prepared for nannies, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, or friends that may bring your patients to the appointments. Don’t assume that a written policy on this topic is read by the parents. Verbally ask who will be attending the appointment with the child and complete the necessary paperwork with the parent. Be proactive and provide the necessary paperwork to the parent in advance of the appointment to eliminate frustrations.

Strategy #8 – Under promise and over deliver. In any care utilizing this strategy with your patients can prove to be successful. A parent that is trusting you with their child’s dental care will feel taken advantage of if the services abruptly change during treatment. Explain all the possible situations that could occur and do not minimize their concerns. Validate all possible scenarios with the parent prior to initiating treatment.

Strategy #9 – Understand that they have the right to refuse service. If you feel that the relationship between the doctor and the parent is not conducive of the proper dental care of the patient you can follow the steps outlined by your local dental association for releasing that patient.

Strategy #10 – Constantly show appreciation to your team, your patients, and their parents. Happy parents make for a more relaxed environment for the patient.

A practice that initiates proactive communication strategies will be far more successful in creating an environment where both the patient and the parent are comfortable. Take every opportunity to create value for your services by turning their child’s visit into a positive experience. Provide the necessary support for your parents to make educated decisions. When your office is fun, exciting, and appreciative your parents will see the value of your services. A little empathy and compassion goes a long way with parents. Utilize these strategies with the parents of your pediatric patients and watch your practice succeed.

About the Author

Brenda McNulty, Jameson Advisor, Jameson Management
With experience in dentistry that spans over 20 years, Brenda brings a depth of both clinical and business knowledge that encompasses the unique scenarios found not only in general practices, but those of orthodontic and pediatric practices as well. As a Jameson advisor, Brenda coaches’ dentists and dental team members nationwide, helping them improve the systems of their business, increase their productivity and profitability and do it all while having FUN. Brenda has been a speaker for multiple study clubs and dental society meetings sharing information on impactful topics like the utilization of technology, development of teamwork, enhancing case acceptance and customer service. For more information on Brenda, the Jameson team and Jameson’s services, visit www.jmsn.com.

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