Here in the UK we get free dental care when we are pregnant and for a year after the baby is born. I knew when I was pregnant with my second child that there was something wrong with one of my teeth and I was right — I needed a root-canal. Scary! It had to happen after the baby was born and took 6 (yes that is S-I-X!) sessions to complete. Now I think the dentist did a good job but the experience was pretty shocking. The place was like a flashback to the dentists I went to as a child in the early eighties — the same furniture, the same smell, the same vinyl coated weird chair to sit on, the same bright lighting, the same ‘trying to be all smiley and friendly’ posters telling me to brush my teeth. I could not imagine taking my tiny children to a place like this to check their teeth; they would immediately know something was up — this is not a place where good things happen. Definitely not.
Luckily for my children, I had heard of Toothbeary, a dedicated children’s only dentist based in Richmond upon Thames.
As long-term oral health is determined in childhood, the Toothbeary team believe that you have to make these first Dentist trips a positive experience so children learn that taking care of their teeth is a good thing. And it is just that … the staff at the reception counter are fun, friendly and remember you if you have been before. The waiting room is essentially a well-designed, fun playroom. The dentists and nurses are trained how to talk to children to put them at ease and they use puppets to explain to the children exactly what will happen to them (Max the Dog had his teeth counted and examined by the Dentist with the help of my 3-year-old holding the mirror for her). And those weird vinyl dentist chairs have been replaced by bright pink beds with a TV directly above them to keep kids distracted. At the end of the examination each child gets a gold coin (for being so good), which they can ’spend’ in the reception area, where they have cool bubble-gum machines filled with small toys.
Toothbeary is a concept originally developed in Germany (where they have treated over 30,000 patients) and combines a knowledge of child-psychology with the most modern dentistry practises. Everything has been thought about from a child’s perspective and has been well considered in order to prevent or address any fears. Even something like the bright light used above the child’s mouth so the dentist can see properly into the mouth can be intimidating for the patient, so the dentist uses stories and child-friendly references (like the sun) to explain what it is and what it is doing. The gel used in the mouth before an anaesthesia is fruit-flavoured and referred to as ‘tooth-marmalade’ and the anaesthesia itself is known as ’sleepy-water’.
In order to prevent treatments Toothbeary also offers a Tooth Brushing School (which should be attended at least once a year for kids to understand what they are doing right and wrong) and they have a monthly payment plan scheme for parents to spread the cost of dentistry.
Can you imagine a dentist’s waiting room where you would here this conversation (this is a real conversation I heard as we were leaving): Dad: ”Come on Emily, time to go.” Emily ” Arhhhhhhhhh! Do we have to?” Seriously, we were in a dentist’s waiting room! Toothbeary is really something quite special.