SOURCE: Academy of General Dentistry
Anxious about going to the dentist? Don't fret, you're not
alone. Nearly 75 percent of people feel your pain.
That includes Grace Yum, who admits she sweats when she goes to
the dentist. (Shhh, don't tell, because she's a dentist.)
Yum and other Chicago area pediatric dentists are on a mission
to erase the fear for this generation of kids. In Yum's case, she
makes every child's visit to her office, Yummy Dental in Chicago's Lincoln Park, an
adventure that begins with a boarding pass to Hawaii or Disney and
ends with a goody bag filled to the brim with things kids actually
want and a photo of the 'trip' to show off to friends and
Fun is in. These days, most dentists' offices are equipped with
multiple staff, sophisticated Web sites, WiFi, Sony PlayStations
and exam room movies.
It can make even the most hesitant patient eager to have his teeth
checked-or not want to leave once the checkup is over.
"You are making a difference in a child's life. I love, love,
love when kids come back and say I want to be a dentist," Yum
Dr. Fred Margolis, of Pediatric Dental Associates P.C. of
Buffalo Grove, focuses on taking away the fear of the unknown. His
Web site, www.kidsmyl.com, outlines everything kids can expect.
They even can watch a video of an exam.
"We send a welcome package to each patient that contains a
personalized, computerized book," Margolis says. "Kids bring the
book in when they visit, they get stickers and we sign the
Margolis wants the first visit to be fun. "Our goal is to
provide preventive dentistry so the child can go through life
without tooth decay or a lot of dentistry."
Dr. Nancy Hijjawi, of Pine Dental Care,
tries to make new patients more comfortable by getting them
"I always show the child what I'm going to do first on the palm
of the hand or the fingernail," Hijjawi says.
Sometimes, pediatric dentistry isn't about office visits at all.
The staff at All Smiles Dental in
Algonquin takes their dental show on the road. Literally.
Since 1992, Dr. Tim Stirneman has put on a play, "The Wizard of
Teeth." "The play is a take on 'The Wizard of Oz' where Dorothy and
her friends have fears about going to the dentist. So they visit
the Wizard of Teeth, who can answer questions about getting work
done. And the wizard shows them how it's not that bad to get your
Stirneman and his crew see up to 3,500 students in one month at
"My favorite part of the show is the question-and-answer session
we do with the kids when the show is over," Stirneman says. "I try
to work into the Q & A about not eating fruit rollups and gummy
bears. We also talk about plaque being bug poop and that gets a big
laugh as well. It's all really rewarding."
Nowadays, many pediatric dental waiting rooms offer high-tech
and high-touch entertainment. This is a far cry from the stack of
used books and old magazines from years ago. There's also an
emphasis on comfort-not just for the kids, but parents as well.
Yummy Dental offers a dedicated Netbook and free WiFi for
parents while their child is seeing the dentist and watching their
'in-flight' movie. Plus all the paperwork is filled out at home, so
parents just can enjoy the downtime.
"Parents often tell us they want to be patients," Yum says.
Dr. Ned Savide, of Palos Heights,
redesigned his office with parents in mind.
"We devoted a lot of space and time in our redesign to the
waiting room," Savide says. "We have things designed to make the
experience of coming to the dentist fun."
Savide supplied his waiting room with a quiet place for parents
to sit, read or catch up on the latest television shows and even a
small movie theater.
He also put a large saltwater fish tank in the middle of the
treatment chair areas.
Hijjawi recently renovated her office. "We have a computer
center in the waiting room where the kids can play games," Hijjawi
A pediatric dentist chooses his or her words carefully. Nothing
can scare a child away faster than the word "drill." At Yummy
Dental, the drill becomes "Mr. Tickle."
"It's all about technique and making sure their experience is very
gentle and not surprising," says Yum. Plus lots of smiles, jokes
and laughing go a long way with kids.
Dr. Mary Tierney, of City Kids Dental in
Chicago, has perfected this technique. She calls the scaler the
"crumb scooper," the dental explorer tool "a tooth counter" and the
fluoride a "tooth vitamin."
Savide also nicknames his dental equipment.
"No one uses the word 'drill,'" Savide says. "Everything is
labeled with a word the kids can understand. When we have to make a
tooth numb, we put a topical anesthetic on it first that we call
'cherry juice.' The syringe we use to numb the tooth we call a
But the real key to pediatric dentistry is being flexible.
"It's all about making kids accepting of dental care," Hajjawi
says. "Taking that extra five minutes of time can change the whole
outcome of the procedure."
Tamara O'Shaughnessy contributed to this story.
Sara Fisher is a mother of two living in Roscoe Village. She also blogs at selfmademom.net.
See more of Sara's stories here.
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