ESCONDIDO — Chairs in the shape of teeth, jumbo toothbrushes and a dentist’s coat make up the recently unveiled exhibit at the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum in Escondido.
Sponsored by insurance provider Delta Dental and local company The Super Dentists, “Grin Land!” features a behind-the-scenes look at a dental office. Children are encouraged to role play as a dentist or patient, read dental X-rays, use dental tools and learn about healthy and unhealthy foods.
Wendy Taylor, executive director of the museum, said the exhibit is located in the museum’s “Our Town” space to help children become familiar with experiences in “their daily lives, while inspiring career exploration through imaginary play.”
“We decided to feature a dentist office exhibit because it is an experience that all children have, and it can often be a scary moment for young children,” Taylor said. “By experiencing a dentist office in a safe, fun place like our museum, children gain confidence for their next visit to the dentist.”
Taylor said it’s important for the museum to inform the public about dental health as “only a fraction of children visit the dentist by age 1 and 20% of young children have untreated cavities.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in five children between the ages of 5 and 11 have at least one untreated, decayed tooth. Children from low-income families are also 25% more likely to have cavities compared to children from higher-income homes, according to the agency.
That knowledge is why The Super Dentists chose to help design and sponsor the latest exhibit. Dr. Kami Hoss, co-founder of the company said poor dental health can affect one’s entire body.
“Some people may not know the importance of a healthy mouth and the life-changing impact it can have on them and on their children,” Hoss said. “Poor oral health doesn’t just cause a little hole in the tooth that the dentist can easily fill. Cavities is just the tip of the iceberg since it’s a sign of a bacterial imbalance with potentially whole-body consequences.”
Hoss said “an unhealthy mouth is dangerous to your heart, lungs, brain and unborn baby. Oral health impacts the quality of your life, your psychological health and even your longevity.”
Hoss recommends that parents help their children brush their teeth at least twice a day for two minutes and floss once a day. He also encourages making trips to the dentist as enjoyable as possible.
“You can pass your own fear of the dentist down to your children so make a trip to the dentist a fun family outing instead of something to fear or dread,” Hoss said. “That subtle shift can make a huge difference in how your child perceives the dentist throughout their childhood.”
The San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum is open 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday with extended hours Wednesday. The Grin Land! exhibit is included with regular admission.
For more information about Grin Land! or the museum, go to sdcdm.org.
Hoa Quach has 15 years of experience in journalism, garnering multiple awards ranging from investigative reporting to feature writing. She’s been named a “Woman Who Means Business” by the San Diego Business Journal, featured in BuzzFeed during International Women’s Day and recognized by the California Legislature for her work. You can reach her at email@example.com.