Dr. Jameela Haq
Pediatric Dentist and Child Prophylaxis Expert
Kurfürstendamm 64, 10707 Berlin, Germany
In Conversation with Dr. Jameela Haq
Working with children in the role of a pediatric dentist necessitates a certain temperament — you just have to love kids and be incredibly patient. Being a good dentist is important (of course), but technical skills would only be useful if you can get a child to open their mouth. And that’s perhaps one of the biggest challenges — gaining a child patient’s trust. At least that’s what Dr. Jameela Haq, the pediatric dentist at KU64, says about her work.
Our team at Zircon Medical recently hosted Dr. Haq on our podcast series to discuss, among other things, how to make a child-friendly space or environment within a dental clinic.
Introducing Dr. Jameela Haq, the pediatric dentist at KU64
Dr. Jameela Haq was born and raised in Dubai. In 2015, she completed her Doctor of Dental Surgery from the University of Sharjah, UAE, one of the biggest universities in the gulf. She also completed her Master of Science (M.Sc) in Pediatric Dentistry from the Medical Faculty of the University of Greifswald, following which she joined the KU64 faculty in Germany as a pediatric dentist and child prophylaxis expert.
Dr. Haq says her interest in medical science and the human body was honed at a fairly young age. She’d always had a knack for the sciences back in school, particularly biology and chemistry. She knew she wanted to be a doctor, but she was torn between human medicine and dental medicine, but her father’s persuasion pushed her towards the latter, a decision she’s glad to have made.
Back in the UAE, Dr. Haq underwent six years of dental education, which included one year of foundation and five years of dental medicine. However, she has been working in Germany for the past four years. Comparing the two regions, Dr. Haq says the UAE features high-end dentistry with modern technology, and it exposed her to an international market, whereas her experience in Germany has leaned more towards research and aesthetic dentistry.
When asked what motivated her to become a pediatric dentist, Dr. Haq succinctly states, “I’m a pediatric dentist by profession, but a community worker by heart.” She runs her own charity organizations and supports community initiatives for children, so kids have always had a special place in her heart. “I was motivated to specialize in pediatric dentistry because I find these little humans very special.”
Dr. Haq says implants and veneers never really fascinated her — nothing fascinates her quite as much as the “love and touch of human nature.” As a people person, Dr. Haq says she loves working with and for people, and that gives her the ideal temperament for pediatric dentistry. Comparing children to sponges, she says they’re always eager to learn and absorb new things, which makes working with them an immensely joyful process.
Setting an environment suitable for children
Dr. Haq is currently the pediatric dentist and child prophylaxis expert at KU64, an extremely large and modern dental clinic in Kurfürstendamm 64, Germany. Even though the dental clinic isn’t meant solely for children, Dr. Haq says the entire dental team has done a marvelous job of making it child-friendly.
“The typical clinic is thought to have white walls, doors, and doctors with white coats, something very scary,” Dr. Haq says, defining how KU64 is different from traditional dental clinics. “But KU64 has the opposite environment — it’s patient-friendly and kid-friendly. There’s so much for kids to do; it’s hard to get them to leave the waiting room. We have cinema, activities, games, and much more — the goal is that they should be happy to enter the dental office.”
Dr. Haq says even general dental practices should ideally modify their dental clinics to be child-friendly, and that can only happen if they understand children’s interests. She says she learns about what cartoons kids are watching, their favorite movies, books, and characters, so she can engage with them on a personal level. All of these elements have to be incorporated into the dental practice to engage children.
“Maybe you have to change the color of the environment,” she says, talking about how dental clinics can be made more child-friendly. “You and your assistant must incorporate changes in the treatment rooms to make them more friendly. When you’re done with the treatment, maybe you can give them something positive, like a gift, certificate, or photo. And during the treatment, you should let them watch whatever they want on the TV.”
Dr. Haq also believes dentists should allow children to guide the way. “Don’t choose everything for them,” she says. Instead, she encourages asking children what they prefer to watch and writing it down somewhere so as to personalize their next session — that’s an essential component of pediatric dentistry, according to her. “Children are a lot more than just their teeth, so you have to understand their likes and dislikes.”
The most important quality for clinicians working with children
When asked which qualities she’d look for while hiring team members, Dr. Haq emphatically stated soft skills and personality. “Be it a dentist, assistant, or receptionist, they must have excellent soft skills. If they don’t have that, no matter how good they are at their job, they can’t be children-friendly staff members. The other skills related to the jobcan be practiced, but if you don’t have the necessary soft skills, you just can’t get along with children."
The #1 problem kids face in prophylaxis
Dr. Haq says lack of motivation to brush and follow oral hygiene is the primary problem facing kids in prophylaxis. According to her, the primary problem is getting kids to brush regularlyusing the right techniques. “Either kids don’t have the information, tools, or motivation, but you need to have all three.” She says that as a pediatric dentist, one of her primary responsibilities is getting kids to maintain optimal oral health.
The perfect time to let kids brush for themselves
When asked about the perfect time to allow kids to brush for themselves, Dr. Haq said it varies from one child to the next. Generally speaking, she says boys can start brushing for themselves at 9 or 10 years of age, which is around the same time they can start writing well. Girls are generally faster at everything, she says, so they mature faster and can start talking, writing, and brushing earlier, at around 8 years.
As a rule of thumb, Dr. Haq says kids can start brushing for themselves once they develop good enough motor skills, i.e., once they can hold the brush properly and brush using the proper techniques. However, if a child doesn’t have good oral hygiene, the parents should continue brushing their teeth until they’re 10 or even 12. It all depends on the child’s oral hygiene and capabilities.
Advice for younger colleagues considering pedantic dentistry
When asked to offer advice to younger colleagues considering pediatric dentistry, Dr. Haq said she has a few “hard truths”:
Don’t enter this field for money.
Only enter this field if you truly love working with children.
Only enter this field if you have LOTS of patience because you’ll need it.
Don’t enter this field because you believe it’s easy — it’s a science of its own and just as challenging as all other dental fields in its own way.
When asked about her future goals, Dr. Haq said she wants to embrace a holistic approach for children and work with kids from across the globe. She wants to work on their nutritional habits, behavioral habits, oral health, and everything related to children.
You can find Dr. Jameela Haq at the KU64 dental clinic in Kurfürstendamm 64 or follow her on Instagram (@kinderzahnarzt.haq). You can also listen to Dr. Haq in our Zircon Medical podcast or continue reading for a detailed article on tips to make your medical office kid-friendly.
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6 Simple Tips to Make Your Dental Clinic Kid-Friendly
An independent article by the Zircon Medical Team
All dental clinics must focus on providing top-notch care and building lifelong relationships with patients. However, when you have children for patients, you need to ditch everything you think you know about dental clinics to create a kid-friendly environment. Your primary goal should be ensuring the kids feel welcome; in fact, they should be thrilled to visit your clinic regularly. Not only will that improve their overall long-term dental health, but it will also win their parents over.
Dr. Jameela Haq offered some interesting and actionable insight into how to create a child-friendly environment. We want to build on her suggestions with a few simple tips you can incorporate without much difficulty.
#1. Design a play area for kids in the waiting room
Children aren’t known for being patient. They have overactive imaginations and need constant stimulation, which is why parents find it particularly difficult to manage kids in the waiting room. You should ideally create a dedicated play area for kids in the waiting room to keep them preoccupied. You can place some rubberized mats and decorate the walls with popular cartoon characters. Some dental clinics also recruit kids from local high schools to paint the walls — that will ensure that your dental clinic reflects children’s actual interests.
#2. Purchase smaller, kid-friendly furniture
If you have a pediatric dental clinic, your entire clinic should have kid-friendly furniture. And if you have a standard dental clinic, you should at least have kid-friendly furniture in the play area or a part of the waiting room. Kid-friendly furniture basically refers to smaller tables and chairs, which allows kids to play safely while feeling comfortable. The tables and furniture should be made from rubberized or plastic materials to ensure optimal safety, and they should be brightly colored and designed.
#3. Get lots of toys, books, and other accessories
You need to make sure the kids have lots to do in the waiting room and play area. Kids are notorious for having short attention spans, so you must populate the area with enough toys to keep them engaged for long periods, if necessary. You should also have toys and books suitable for all age groups, from extremely young kids to early teenagers. For the older children, it helps to have a television set with the most popular streaming platforms available, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, etc.
#4. Ditch the white coats and embrace fun outfits
If you want to create a positive experience for children, you’ll have to ditch everything clinical, such as white coats. If kids like your personality and feel comfortable with you, their respect will follow naturally. Instead of a white coat, you can wear animal prints, fun outfits that resemble cartoon characters, and bright shirts. Children often have a deep-seated fear of clinical white coats, so you should engage them with outfits they’ll find more pleasing.
#5. Buy kid-friendly dental tools and equipment
There’s nothing quite as frightening as a table full of sharp, bright, metallic tools and instruments. No matter how brightly you design the dental clinic, a single glance at your medical equipment will make most kids quake in their boots. Instead, you can purchase pediatric tools and equipment that are designed in bright and fun colors. Some pediatric dental clinics also use phlebotomy chairs that look like cartoon vehicles.
#6. Positive reinforcement through rewards
Positive reinforcement works wonders for kids. Despite all of your best aesthetic efforts, it’s possible that kids may feel uncomfortable during dental treatments. You can modify that mindset with positive reinforcement at the end of the session. Once they’re done with the treatment, you can reward them with stickers, candies, or small, inexpensive toys. You can even keep a “treasure chest” in your dental clinic full of potential rewards. This will make them excited about their upcoming dental visits, and they’ll be more willing to get through the whole session quickly so they can get the rewards.