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Pediatric dentist or general practitioner, your waiting rooms undoubtedly contain a handful of children’s books aimed at explaining that first big dental visit. Or maybe your patients have asked for counsel on preparing their child for the Big Day.
But does Elmo really do the job?
In a quest to size up children’s books about dental visits, I employed my ‘tween kids — with their older and wiser perspectives — to weigh in on whether the books hit the target in a fun, readable but truthful way.
PBS dynamos Elmo (“Elmo Visits the Dentist”), Dora the Explorer (“Show Me Your Smile: A Visit to the Dentist”) and Barney the Purple Dinosaur (“Barney Goes to the Dentist”), and even Nickelodeon’s Sponge Bob (“Behold! No Cavities!”) hit the presses with first dental visit books, though only Barney and Sponge Bob actually have teeth. While the messages may be simplistic, the big draw is favorite, trusted characters happily meeting the dentist and learning about their teeth. Thumbs up for all.
These books got a closer look from my crew, since the stories became more detailed and interesting. But there’s a caveat.
The hands-down favorite is Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter book, “Just Going to the Dentist,” part of the Golden Books franchise. The story of Little Critter meeting Dr. Ghum for a checkup won high marks for portraying the visit in a fun, but accurate, way. My son found the illustrations “cool,” especially the dentist’s chair and the accompanying equipment described as a “spaceship.” “That would have helped when I was little,” my daughter said.
Usborne’s “Going to the Dentist” also got good marks from my kids for portraying a dental visit realistically, but the story and pages seemed too busy and the illustrations were lacking.
Interestingly, both books show children being dosed by a needle before a cavity is filled. Thanks to sealants, neither of my kids have had cavities nor been presented with a needle injection at the dentist. Some may find that image “scary,” my reviewers said.
Books at this age level lean informational, though some are better than others.
“I Know Why I Brush My Teeth” from Scholastic has a lot going for it: vivid and fun illustrations, an entertaining story line, and concrete facts presented in age-appropriate language and images. The information, my daughter declared, makes more sense since by this age, children are older with a few more dental visits under their belts. My son found it helpful and fun to read.
Another title with high marks is “The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist.” Stan Berenstain’s engaging bear family adds a fun family dynamic to the storyline of a dental visit. The Berenstain Bears adventures were always a favorite in our house!
A final note: To my eye, the portrayal of dental offices and operatories in most of the books is sorely outdated.
It goes to show you how dentistry has modernized — with its cleaner, computerized look — in the 20-some years since many of these books were published.
Not all children’s books are created equally. Judicious choosing, with an eye to honesty and readability, can put your youngest patients at ease.
A tradition of working for the dental profession. The Chicago Dental Society was organized in 1864 and incorporated in 1878. The objective of the Chicago Dental Society is to encourage the improvement of the health of the public, to promote the art and science of dentistry and to represent the intrest of the members of the profession and the public that it serves.
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