People of any age just want to be noticed. They want to matter, and knowing this, I engaged these kids in conversation. I sat on the floor to bring myself to their level, physically, and enjoyed a silly conversation with them. They perked up and had a great time, and soon, I was known as a “doofy nugget.” Once I had won them over, it was easy to go back and forth between the kids and the adults, and all seemed to have had a good time.
I don’t know what it is about children. So many adults have no idea how to engage them, how to talk to them, how to entertain them or how to treat them. The old saying about how children should be seen but not heard does not really work. It does not raise those children to become engaged, responsible adults who contribute to society more than they take away. They are just like “us,” only younger. Find out what interests them and engage them in that topic, and they will light up and be wonderful to work with.
Dr. Steve Baylin, a good friend and now a retired pediatric dentist, visited my office many years ago. When he arrived, there were some children in the office being treated by my team and me, and he told me later he now understands why I don’t refer a lot of children to him. He was one specialist who understood that general practice dentists can, and should, be using our skills and training in all areas of dentistry where we feel competent and confident.
I like treating children, but I could not do it full-time. Steve told me that children who come to the dentist office are either wonderful or horrible patients. Fortunately, 95 percent of the time they are wonderful patients; for the 5 percent who are not, I use the specialty skills of the pediatric teams to turn that experience around so they have a better oral health care future. Often, after some time, these referred pediatric patients return to my office for regular care.
And now we have a generation of children growing up and not just being OK with going to the dentist, but rather actually looking forward to it. We have worked hard to develop the whole package of prevention, minimal invasive treatment and an atmosphere of professional fun. This generation of patients are set up for a lifetime of oral health care success. I have witnessed this happening and am pretty proud of what role I may have played with some of these good people.
I love being a general dentist and am thrilled AGD exists to be an active advocate for us and what we do every day. And if that means I have to be a doofy nugget on occasion, I am OK with that, too.
Larry Stanleigh, BSc, MSc, DDS, FADI, FICD, FACD, FPFA