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ADA helps 'Daniel Tiger' visit the dentist

January 15, 2019

By Kimber Solana

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood
Roar: Daniel Tiger and his mom visit Dr. Plat for a cleaning and dental exam in an episode of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” an animated children’s television series on PBS Kids. Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, ADA spokesperson and former vice president, helped the series’ producers shape the episode.

Photo credit: Courtesy of The Fred Rogers Company

It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood to visit a dentist.
    
Daniel Tiger, an original resident of "Mister Roger's Neighborhood" and now the feature of his own animated children's show, felt a little nervous about visiting a new dentist for a cleaning and exam.
    
But with some help from the ADA, his visit would be a success.

Photo of Dr. Shenkin
Dr. Shenkin
Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, ADA spokesperson and former ADA vice president, worked with producers of "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood," an American-Canadian animated children's television series on PBS Kids, in shaping the episode.
    
"It was nice that the show focused on a dental visit," Dr. Shenkin said. "There's very little out there, when it comes to cartoons, that focuses on helping kids get ready to visit their dentist."
    
In the episode, Daniel and his mom visit Dr. Plat the platypus. Dr. Plat makes Daniel feel comfortable, allowing Daniel to sit on the dental chair with his stuffed animal, Mr. Dino. When Daniel sits back and opens his mouth, he does a little roar. After putting on her gloves and mask, she brushes Daniel's teeth and sings a song on how to brush your teeth properly.
    
"Ah, nice teeth, I see you've been brushing real carefully," Dr. Plat tells Daniel. "Your teeth are nice and strong."
    
Daniel then tells Dr. Plat he brushes his teeth twice a day, once in the morning and at bedtime.
    
During the cleaning, Dr. Plat tells Daniel she'll use another tool to clear off the plaque and the germs that are hard to reach. She let's Daniel pick the flavor of his toothpaste. After asking the audience what they would choose, Daniel picked berry stripe mint.
    
Dr. Plat sings another song outlining to the audience what to expect when they visit their dentist.
    
"Dentists are there to help to make sure you have a healthy mouth," Dr. Plat sings.
    
Dr. Shenkin said the producers had sent him the script, which he helped revise. In the original script, Dr. Shenkin said, Daniel's mom was directing the steps of how the visit would be conducted, including hovering over Daniel during the cleaning and exam.
    
"It was critical to show the autonomy of the child," Dr. Shenkin said. "Kids are surprisingly well-behaved when given the chance to be independent."
    
Dr. Shenkin said the producers were very receptive to the changes, which included several revisions to the script. He gave the producers an outline of what a dentist would do when first meeting a child, including reviewing their health history, asking about brushing and diet, asking if they have any dental concerns or tooth pain and what to expect during a cleaning and an exam.
    
"Working with the ADA and Dr. Shenkin was extremely helpful," said Christopher Loggins, producer at Fred Rogers Productions.
    
Not all of Dr. Shenkin's ideas made the episode, he said, adding that producers were concerned about young children comprehending the dangers of sugar or the science behind how fluoride works. However, Dr. Shenkin said, the overall process was positive.
    
"It was a great experience," he said. "We were able to show the real steps kids can expect when they visit the dentist, show how we speak to kids and how kids respond."
    
Recently, Dr. Shenkin said, he had a new 2-year-old patient come in for an exam. The patient's mom mentioned that they watched the Daniel Tiger's visit to the dentist episode before coming in.
    
"They had no idea I was involved with it," he said. "When [the child] sat back, he went, 'roar.'"
    
To view the episode, visit pbskids.org/Daniel/videos. Possibly a nod to dentistry's early age, when barbers also served as dentists, after Daniel's visit to the dentist, he gets his first haircut.