A Look at Behaviour-Shaping When Working with Children in Dental Assistant Careers

Within the field of dentistry, working with children or even patients with special needs can often present unique challenges. These patients may present anxieties about dental procedures and may even refuse to cooperate when it comes to treatment, preventing them from getting the dental care they need. Behaviour-shaping, otherwise known as behavioural management, is a philosophy and a set of techniques developed in response to these issues as a way for dental professionals to work with children effectively without sacrificing the patient’s happiness or discomfort. Behaviour-shaping is primarily centred around communication techniques, with a focus on patient education.

If you’re seeking a career as a dental assistant, your role will involve working with children and educating them on the importance of oral health, in addition to providing assistance throughout procedures. Having a firm grasp on behaviour-shaping can help you to work with children more effectively, ensuring they have a good experience and receive the care they need. Below, discover more about the practice of behaviour-shaping.

The Importance of Behaviour-Shaping for Children

The goal of behaviour management, or behaviour-shaping, is to help children to have a more positive perception of visiting the dentist, moving past notions of anxiety or fear. Given the importance of good oral health to a person’s overall wellbeing and quality of life, it’s important to instill in children early on a commitment to improving their dental health and a willingness to participate in necessary dental treatments and procedures. Thus, behaviour-shaping techniques were developed in order to ensure that those in dental and dental assistant careers can effectively treat children, ensuring that they have a good experience. 

After dental assisting training, use behavioural management to help children have a good experience

Behaviour-Shaping Techniques

There are a wide range of behaviour-shaping techniques, and that which is used should be selected based on the child’s situation and circumstances. Below are some of the most common:

  • Tell-Show-Do: Used most commonly with less anxious children, this technique involves first verbally explaining the procedure, then demonstrating it using an example, and then finally performing the procedure, providing an educational and supportive environment for the child.
  • Modelling: If a patient has an older sibling, this technique can be used to demonstrate what the procedure would look like on them. Often children will respond positively when they see someone they look up to handling the treatment well.
  • Distraction: This technique involves using various tools to divert the child’s attention away from the procedure at hand. This might include telling stories, using audio like music or visual distractions like movies or even virtual reality glasses. 

While these are just a few examples of behavioural management techniques, there are many more that those with dental assisting training can revert to.

There are a variety of behaviour-shaping techniques used in dentistry

How Those in Dental Assistant Careers Can Use Behaviour-Shaping

For dental assistants, a strong knowledge of behaviour-shaping techniques can positively influence their ability to assist dentists and dental hygienists in performing procedures and treatments. Dentists often rely on dental assistants to provide support to children while they work, ensuring that children are comfortable and that their needs are met. By employing behaviour-shaping techniques as a dental assistant, you can nurture a child’s positive attitude towards their oral health, improving their overall wellbeing in the long run.

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