Worldwide, nearly 100% of adults and between 60% to 90% of school-age children have dental cavities. To put this in perspective, there are a total of 5.3 million PK-12 students in the 30,861 private schools that are in the U.S. alone (not including the massive amount of students in public schools too). Adults’ teeth typically wear down over time (also, wine). But kids usually have pretty strong teeth (after their baby teeth come out). Not going to the dentist, however, is an easy way to hinder a child’s dental hygiene.
Luckily, some innovative dentists are turning to technology to help young children feel more at ease about making regular visits to the dentist.
According to the StarTribune, a new app — Yonder — is aimed at helping children navigate a trip to the dentist.
We know the dentist isn’t actually scary at all. In fact, dentistry is considered one of the 10 most trusted and ethical professions in the United States. But little kids don’t exactly share that same sentiment. All kids see when they go to the dentist is cold furniture, sharp metal tools, and other kids looking terrified. It’s important to note, however, it is perfectly normal for children to be fearful of the dentist. It’s part of growing up. But for extreme circumstances, even when visiting a dentist who knows how to effectively cope with a child’s fears and anxieties, something more needs to be done. That something is Mimi.
“Hi! I’m Mimi,” the digital character says over upbeat kids music. “Come on in. Wave hello to my friend!”
Mimi helps young children and the dentist get acquainted in a fun and comfortable manner. The dentist will simply let Mimi take the lead, wave when waved at, and handle the dentist stuff when called upon.
“We sit at the intersection of education and entertainment to drive better health outcomes,” said Adam Choe, co-founder of Yonder. “By blending those two things together, we think we can have a perfect platform to help prepare kids for better health outcomes.”
Today’s children feel more comfortable with technology than ever before and innovative approaches like Mimi will surely help change the way they think about dental care.
In addition to relying on digital dental assistants to help kids overcome their fear of the dentist, there are a few other things parents can do:
- Take them to the dentist early on — Baby teeth begin to grow around 6 months — the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a trip to the dentist before your child’s first birthday. The earlier a child visits the dentist, the more comfortable they’ll feel.”This will provide your child with a ‘dental home’ where all her needs — whether a periodic preventive visit or an emergency — will be taken care of,” added Rhea Haugseth, D.M.D., president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
- Don’t use scary words — If a child hears the ‘S,’ ‘H,’ or ‘P’ words — they’ll immediately get worried about going to the dentist. ‘Shot,’ ‘Hurt,’ and ‘Pain’ should never be used to describe the dentist. Instead, tell your child the dentist is doing something a little more adorable.”My favorite thing to have parents tell their child is that we are going to check their smile and count their teeth — that’s it, nothing else,” added Michael J. Hanna, D.M.D., national spokesperson of the America Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
- Try not to bribe your child — Since dental care is so important, parents will do whatever it takes to get their kids to agree on a visit. Unfortunately, this often means bribery and that won’t exactly help with the situation.Saying, “If you don’t cry, you’ll get a treat,” might make your child think, “What’s so bad about the dentist that I might want to cry?” Also, promising candy or a sugary snack doesn’t exactly send the right message about healthy teeth.
The dentist might seem intimidating to your little one, but with the right words, an adorable digital character, and a compassionate dentist, everything will be just fine!