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Yonder: Easy tech that relieves dental anxiety in children

July 22, 2021
Pediatric dental anxiety is very common, especially for first visits. Learn how the Yonder app is easing kids' and parents' fears, and improving pediatric care.

As a licensed dental hygienist and also a parent, I have seen many times our youngest patients being very anxious about coming into the dental office and having an exam and prophylaxis. Many children experience unsure feelings and emotions about a new place, and the dental operatory is full of many new procedures, sensations, and sounds. As dental professionals, much of the time we take in that the first visit, if not the first several visits, are to make young patients comfortable and to take time to explain each procedure carefully and gently. I have often thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to introduce the office and our dental procedures ahead of time, so our young patients wouldn’t be so apprehensive?” Now there is, in the form of an app called Yonder.

In 2016, two researchers came together and developed an app they called Yonder to help parents find a solution for easing their child’s anxiety about coming in for a first dental visit. Dr. Courtney Hill, a pediatric ENT surgeon, and Adam Choe, who grew up with dental anxiety, were both passionate about helping children deal with nervous feelings about new experiences in the dental setting.

The app features Mimi, a hippopotamus, who playfully guides new patients virtually through the office, giving them a view of what to expect at their first visit. The app allows young children and their parents to prepare for that first visit with entertaining and educational content. Each office sends pictures of their staff and operatories to give patients an individualized experience. Patients see the actual experience they will be getting, easing fears and calming nerves to help make their child’s first visit a success.

Mimi shows kids the exact walkthrough of what they will experience at the dentist office. This allows children the opportunity to practice and prepare in advance and eliminates the lost revenue of a first visit when an exam and prophy cannot be completed due to crying, nervous kids.

How it works

First, a designated team member visits letsyonder.com to register their practice. The app records, edits, and builds the app specifically for each individual office. Then the dental practice can email or text patients with a unique code to use to customize the app. Not only does this lead to more efficient first visits and increased revenue, it’s also an easy way to incorporate word-of-mouth marketing. Yonder can also film video footage to integrate into the practice’s app.

According to Yonder’s website, visits are 50% faster and 63% of kids are easier to work with! That is a huge improvement over the lost revenue and stress caused by a wasted appointment with an uncooperative patient. Also, happy and healthy kids are more likely to have happy parents who share their good experience on social media and word of mouth, creating a marketing boost for your office.

Prospective patients can also use Yonder’s interactive website, mimithehippo.com. There are videos including a tooth brushing song for kids and a blog to check out useful advice and information about preparing for first dental visits. Another focus of the Yonder app and website includes special needs children. The founders stress that clear communication is the key to equity in pediatric dental care. As Yonder’s blog states, research shows that technology can help close the gap in clear communication for patients with special needs, in particular those with autism.

Laying a strong foundation

Yonder’s founders believe that clear communication is an important part of delivering care and helps both parties arrive at the desired outcome, which makes for a successful dental visit, and therefore more optimal dental and overall health. By providing the interactive experience through the Yonder app, young patients are introduced to the experience in a nonthreatening manner, leading to a higher chance of a positive outcome for both patient and provider. Another great resource for patients and parents is Yonder’s Instagram page. The page shows examples of the use of the app and happy visits!

As health care providers, we’re well aware of the link between oral and systemic health. Creating positive dental experiences at a young age helps lay the foundation for oral and overall health throughout life. Technology like Yonder is another tool in our toolbelt to help our youngest patients achieve lifelong health and make a difference in the quality of their dental visits.

Cheryl Clements, MSDH, RDH, has worked in clinical dental hygiene for more than 20 years. She recently completed her master’s degree in dental hygiene and business management from the University of Minnesota. She is an experienced and personable hygienist with a passion for patient education and overall oral health. She lives in suburban Minneapolis and works in private practice. With her master’s, Clements hopes to further her career in dentistry through consulting, product development. and research.