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Keywords:

  • communication;
  • intervention;
  • oral health;
  • quality improvement

Abstract

Background

Children's unhappy visits to the dentist can negatively impact lifelong oral health. A possible intervention is to enhance empathy in the child patient–dental practitioner relationship through communication. The present paper presents a new instrument, the Survey of Anxiety and Information for Dentists (SAID), which targets children's dental anxiety, coping preferences and dental neglect, and offers children a change to request information and engage in treatment planning.

Method

Five children's focus groups pilot tested the content, wording and response format of a prototype patient request form, the SAID. Participants were 34 10- to 13-year-old children who individually completed the form then discussed it item by item in their small groups.

Results

Children had no difficulty completing most items. They identified ambiguities, and items that were meaningless to them, and proposed a new item asking the dentist about their job. Children were polarized over the response format, but they were emphatic about passing the form directly to the dentist, and not to a receptionist or assistant, stressing the importance of having a conversation with their dentist.

Conclusions

Before the pilot, dentists had expressed concerns about the potential for words in the SAID-provoking negative feelings. Children, however, wanted and needed facts, so requested that dentists use plain language, not euphemisms, to describe problems and treatment options. We report their selected practical suggestions. SAID-informed negotiated care may promote more patient cooperation and satisfaction at appointments, and more attention to oral hygiene between appointments.