Every year, we celebrate Give Kids a Smile Day (in 2024, it’s on Feb. 2). Dental assistants and hygienists play a crucial role in pediatric dental care, taking care of children’s teeth and keeping their smiles bright, white, and healthy. Are you interested in working with kids as a pediatric hygienist or assistant?
Working with children requires applying both your hard skills—your dental training—and soft skills like knowing how to communicate with a child. You’re the first person to greet them, and if you know how to put kids at ease, you can make their experience at the dentist a positive one.
Sometimes kids have fears about new experiences or aren’t able to understand complex subjects like how to take care of one’s teeth, and that adds an extra challenge. But if you can think like a kid, you can help them face their fears and also learn how to handle new information (with their parent/guardian’s help). And don’t worry, if you’re not sure you can, it’s a skill that can be learned.
Here are 3 soft skills for dental hygienists and assistants that help your pediatric patients. Bonus: these skills will help you be successful with patients of any age.
Compassion. The best way to get cooperation is to put your young patient at ease. Gain their trust and confidence by introducing yourself, talking directly to them, and asking questions about themselves.
Communication skills. Kids – and their parents -- don’t like surprises, and some may feel anxious about the unknown. Visiting the dentist can be an unfamiliar experience for them, and sometimes kids will dig in and refuse to comply with directions. They might even refuse to get in the chair. Put them at ease with things like counting their teeth, walking them through the steps of procedures, and showing them your dental tools and naming them with kid-friendly names. Speak in simple terms. Communicating at the level of your patient is key to gaining their confidence.
Patience and problem-solving. Working with kids takes patience and the ability to problem-solve non-compliant behaviors, but if you gain their trust right off the bat, you’ll have a better time of avoiding conflict. That said, even children who have seen you before and know you can have off days and refuse to follow directions. Expect that it will happen at times, and figure out how to work with it and turn the experience around while remembering to be kind and friendly.
As a dental assistant or hygienist, you’re an important member of dental teams. If it sounds like a job you might enjoy, click here or call us at (855) 436-7847 to learn more about how to prepare for a career in the field.