Dr. Paul Casamassimo is the winner of the 2017 Norton M. Ross Award, which is presented to those whose research has significantly impacted some aspect of clinical dentistry. Dr. Casamassimo spent more than two decades as the chair of the division of pediatric dentistry and community oral health at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry in Columbus, Ohio, and treating children is one of his passions.
It’s no secret treating a child can be difficult. “Technically and strategically, practicing dentistry is difficult, and that’s before adding an additional variable in like a child who may or may not be willing and able to accept treatment,” he said. Still, Dr. Casamassimo said it can be very rewarding.
Without further ado, here are Dr. Casamassimo’s three tips for treating children:
1. Encourage parents to bring children in early
As all dentists know, prevention is key, but this especially applies to children. If their first visit to the dentist is positive one, they’ll know what to expect next time they’re in the office. But if their first dental visit is because they’re experiencing pain and a dentist must perform more extensive treatment, it could lead the child to associate the dentist with discomfort. “It’s vital for parents to bring their child to visit a dentist around their first birthday,” Dr. Casamassimo said.
2. Distract the child
“To be a pediatric dentist, it’s almost a perquisite to know cartoons, comics, sports, pop stars and Disney movies,” Dr. Casamassimo said. Discussing these topics can spur a conversation with a child and make them more comfortable, while distracting them from the dental procedure itself.
3. Reward the child
“I always try to reinforce positive behavior with both the child and their parents,” Dr. Casamassimo said. Rewards like stickers can cap off a productive trip to the dentist and reinforce that the child did a good job and that they should behave similarly next time. “If you have an office that distracts and rewards young patients, it can become a pleasant experience for them. I’ve had patients who didn’t want to leave and asked their parents when they can go back to the dentist,” Dr. Casamassimo said.
Dr. Casamassimo acknowledged that working with children can be challenging, but he said it’s something dentists should embrace.
“Dentists should be willing to do all sorts of procedures and even be open to taking on some things that they may not have enjoyed in dental school, but are necessary when working with the general population,” Dr. Casamassimo said.
“Dentistry is fun,” he continued. “And working with kids can be fun. When you receive a hug from a child after performing a procedure, it makes it all worth it.”