Dentistry that promises a ‘happy ever after’
Happy Kids Dental’s fantasy approach to oral care looks set to change children’s health – in true fairytale fashion
With a monkey swinging from a tree and two hippos sitting in the waiting area, Happy Kids Dental is a new paediatric practice in London that’s ‘doing dentistry’ differently.
Situated in Marylebone, it is more theme park than dentistry with an adventurous jungle-themed play park design that unashamedly appeals to its target audience.
The ‘fun factor’ is evident throughout and includes games consoles, interactive screens, play areas and iPads. There are ceiling-mounted TVs in every one of its 15 treatment rooms where children get to watch their favourite shows, while the usual dental paraphernalia is hidden away in the cabinetry.
Colourful jungle murals adorn the walls and there’s a fun brushing station where the young clientele can test their expertise cleaning the teeth in the giant mouths of jungle animals.
Almost one year old, its design will win awards and be an inspiration for a growing generation of clinicians seeking solutions to reverse the 21st-century blight on our alarming children’s oral health statistics.
But, what of its substance? Evidently, it is patient-centred and its nurturing of early days oral health goes way beyond the bare necessities of a poster, free toothbrush and stickers.
Happy Kids Dental was founded by brother and sister team, Yevhen Hunyak and Roksolana Mykhalus – second-generation dentists who, having lived in the States, saw a gap in the market for a US-style delivery of paediatric dentistry where practices like this thrive.
And it is working here in the UK, too. Happy Kids Dental has already attracted a high volume of patients through its doors who are treated by a multidisciplinary team with a shared passion for paediatric care.
At the heart of the brand lies a very simple concept – ‘get ‘em while they’re young’ and create positive lifetime associations.
Helene Schirmer is one of its three dual-qualified dental hygienists and therapists. She believes its ethos is as much to do with engaging children early as it is delivering care in a comfortable environment.
Helene says: ‘We spend as much time with our patients as needed. We book long appointments to allow for flexibility, which is particularly reassuring when it comes to children who have never visited the dentist, may be anxious or have special needs.’
This flexibility seemingly knows no bounds as the team is available seven days a week, happy to work around today’s busy family schedules where often both parents work and offspring have their own diary of commitments.
Helene says: ‘We take a full birth-to-date history, family history and “experience of dentistry” history. We also use a variety of aids, such as our intraoral cameras to take “tooth selfies” to show areas for concern or to monitor development.’
The treatment rooms are all equipped with the latest generation of dental technologies, including the lowest-radiation digital X-ray, The Wand pain-free computerised anaesthesia, inhalation sedation and Isolite, hands-free, dental isolation technology that is perfect for little mouths.
But it is not all hi-tech gadgetry and sideshow amusements. Patient education has a big part to play in this playground of dental care.
Happy Kids Dental is a huge supporter of the UK-wide Dental Check by One – the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry’s campaign to get children in the dental chair before their first birthday.
Helene says: ‘We involve parents so they understand the importance of their children’s oral health. With younger children who need parental assistance for effective plaque removal, we observe brushing techniques before giving a tooth-brushing demonstration on one of our animal puppets and then the patient.
‘Sometimes, we use our Oral-B Test Drive in our tooth-brushing lessons. We also recommend parents to take photos or videos for reference and give tips to aid the creation of good habits.’
Of course, every smile is different and the team invests a lot of time researching the brands they recommend to provide bespoke advice.
Helene says: ‘it can be a bit daunting picking a toothbrush when faced with all packed shelves in a shop, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. For our patients who prefer a good manual toothbrush, we recommend a small head and medium soft bristles. Electric toothbrushes can be more effective at cleaning teeth, if used properly, and most children find them fun to use. However, it’s important to choose an age-specific electric toothbrush.’
‘There are many great toothbrushing apps available that encourage children to brush for at least two minutes, such as the Disney Magic Timer app by Oral-B. Each time they brush, Disney and Marvel character images are revealed during 2-minutes brushing time. Children have the opportunity to unlock 16 custom animations and 1,600 rewards, ensuring the app maintains its novelty and transforming the act of brushing into a game.'
‘We always take time to discuss toothpaste options and show them how they can check how much fluoride is in their toothpaste, and we recommend using disclosing tablets. We email patients and parents their plaque score along with the intraoral photos of their disclosed teeth, which is a great motivating tool. Increasingly, consumers are gaining the skills and confidence needed to manage their own health care and Happy Kids Dental is designed to help them look after their teeth between appointments.’
If what Helene believes is true, then an active and engaged patient is implicit at the core of the oral health care of the future – and, whilst this engagement might prove a challenge, it is also an opportunity for providers.
Although the age range of the clinic’s patients is currently 0-18 years, parents too are embracing this relaxed environment and the practice has received requests for adult appointments – something they have not ruled out.
With a priority to offer a positive and fun experience while creating healthy smiles, it’s no wonder that Happy Kids Dental appeals to the big kid in us all.
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