Posts Tagged ‘patient anxiety’

Office Theming is a Win for Your Office, Big or Small

January 3rd, 2020

No matter what size space you want to theme, the benefits of a kid-friendly space in dental or medical offices are always the same. Your practice will become more welcoming for young families, and the kids will have fun and be less anxious while in your care. Happy parents will rave about your office, and through their word-of-mouth advertising, more families will come looking for a similar experience.

Read on for a few ways to take your space from mundane to magical!


Small Office

For offices where space is a precious commodity, start your theming with wall murals. Murals are a great way to inject some fun into a space and require zero footprint to do so. Murals aren’t limited to just your walls; our colorful graphics can be applied to check-in counters, doors, cabinetry, windows, company vehicles, and more!

Our custom murals are expertly curated to fit any space, taking any permanent fixture into consideration – light switches, outlets, doorways, etc. You’ll never have to worry about a cute character’s face being covered up by the thermostat!

If you’d like to have some 3D elements in your office, but you’re worried about them taking up too much space, we recommend products like brushing mirrors or themed benches that replace their ‘regular’ counterparts. This combination results in an exciting office with zero extra space required.


Medium Office

If you’ve got a little more room to play, your options open up even more. In addition to our recommendations for a smaller office, themed kid’s corners and play areas are among our most popular designs. You can add in some gaming stations for a variety of ages, while creating “share-worthy” photo ops that are a perfect addition to your social media feed. These extras can really enhance the experience kids have while visiting your office.

Depending on your location and exterior space available, you could also consider a character sitting on a bench outside of your practice. Our designs are built to last and can withstand outdoor elements, no matter your geographical location, from snowy winters to sunny summers. Exterior photo ops make for great landmarks, which not only saves space inside, but also helps make your practice easier to find from the outside. Inquisitive passers-by will likely wander into your practice, curious to know more about the services you offer.


Large Office

If you are lucky enough to have a large space, this is where the IDS team can really roll up their sleeves and help you create an unforgettable experience for your patients. As your patients move from the front of the office to the back, we can help you to enhance your theme and tell a story that keeps them engaged throughout their entire visit.

With more space comes more opportunities to get creative with your theming, such as a large-scale sculpture in your waiting area, or 3D cladding for your front desk. You can add theming elements like ceiling characters to your treatment rooms and open bay, or deck out your waiting area with cladded benches or characters “waiting” for their own appointments. Theater rooms are also popular to keep kids occupied for longer, especially when waiting for a sibling to finish their appointment. The trick is creating a space that isn’t just a room with a TV, but a secret world created just for your younger patients.

Big or small, theming can help you to squeeze extra value out of your physical space. Our clients often describe it as a win-win-win investment – patients and their families have more fun while in your care, staff report that appointments are easier and they enjoy working a unique environment, and the space helps to fuel positive reviews from parents which helps to accelerates the growth of the practice.

IDS is committed to helping you invest in the future success of your practice.

The only question is, what kind of theme can we create for you?


Engage, Entertain, and Educate – The Three E’s of Creating Office Decor for Kids

August 1st, 2018

IDS has gained notoriety as being the go-to company for creating office spaces designed with children in mind. When we design for kids we of course engineer the toughest product available, but we also look at the psychological side of how our creations will help children prepare for an appointment.

For this we follow the Three E’s: Engage, Entertain, and Educate!


Passively sitting and waiting for an appointment allows children’s anxiety to grow and fester. IDS wants to engage kids’ minds and bodies in activities in order to distract and calm them, creating good memories associated with their visit to the dentist. You won’t see faces like this at an IDS themed office:

Young patients aren’t just at an office for treatment; they are there to learn. Proving children an opportunity to engage in their education encourages a deeper understanding of their oral health, setting them up for a future of healthy teeth!

The end goal we hope to achieve by transforming an office is to promote a better appointment to allow for smoother, faster treatments and to encourage care to be continued at home.


Time flies when you’re having fun! This phrase exists for a reason. The busier someone is during a time interval, the faster that time interval will feel like it has passed. There is a lot less time for a child to get anxious, bored, or build up tension about an upcoming procedure if they are lost in play.

From the study Influence of Positive Distractions on Children in Two Clinic Waiting Areas:

“Data analysis shows that the introduction of distraction conditions was associated with more calm behavior and less fine and gross movement, suggesting significant calming effects associated with the distraction conditions. Data also suggest that positive distraction conditions are significant attention grabbers and could be an important contributor to improving the waiting experience for children in hospitals by improving environmental attractiveness.”

IDS gaming tablets, slides, theaters, and play forts provide a number of outlets for kids to burn energy and reduce stress. Whether they are crawling around a play area, laughing at a funny kids movie playing in the theater, or using their mind to solve puzzles on an iPad, kids are having fun!

children palying on gaming tablets in reception area

The proof is in the reviews from parents. Taken from actual online reviews of our clients:

“Makes coming to the dentist fun and something to look forward to!”

“My son left the dentist with a huge smile, asking to come back again!!”

“If you’re a kid and you need to go to the dentist, this is the place to go! The atmosphere is fun, friendly, and eases the anxiety of seeing a dentist!”

If our theming isn’t fun for kids, then we’re not doing our jobs!


Last, but not least, we want to encourage the education of your patients when they visit your office. While making sure kids are having fun is our main goal, we want to ensure that we have an impact on the health of children as well.

Chair-side education is the current model for delivering information to patients. But is this the best way for them to absorb information? Studies show that using passive learning vs active learning creates a stark contrast in the retention of a lesson.

Many studies have found that, while individuals have various learning styles, on average people remember 90% of what they do compared to 20% of what they hear. When you were a student, did you learn more in a lecture hall or when you were actively working on a patient’s mouth? Kids are the same. Passive learning disempowers the student and takes the fun out of learning.

It is important that education is fun at a young age. Research has shown that if students do not consider a learning activity worthy of their time and effort, they might not engage or may even disengage all together in response (Fredricks, Blumenfeld, & Paris, 2004).

Waiting rooms are a place where children can experience hands-on learning and experiment with large replica teeth and other educational installations while still feeling as if they are just playing.

A large tooth with a cavity that emits a foul stink when you press a button gives a vivid demonstration of what actually happens to a rotten mouth. That’s memorable!

IDS is dedicated to helping your patients have the best possible experience when they visit your office. Every office we create is ready to Engage, Entertain, and Educate!


White Paper: Alleviating Patient Anxiety Through Office Theming

January 31st, 2018



  1. Blondin, B.Des.
    June 16th, 2016



Focuses on techniques for alleviating dental anxiety, fear, and phobias through positive interior support design and environmental distractions.

Reports of dental anxiety in up to 74% of children and adolescents imply that anxiety is a major concern in dental offices. Pediatric dental theming vastly improved patient experience by relieving anxiety, fear, and phobias from a young age. It is also possible to have a significant positive impact on the duration of a patient’s life, as well as future generations by halting the cycle of dental avoidance through office theming.

Highlights several support design techniques and delves into the reasons why theming in medical environments is so crucial to patient wellbeing.




Anxiety, by definition, is a “state of apprehension resulting from the anticipation of a threatening event or situation” (American Heritage Science Dictionary). Anxiety is differentiated from fear, as fear occurs in the presence of an observed threat, while anxiety requires no tangible manifestation. Anxiety may develop into a phobia; which is defined as a “persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous” (American Heritage Science Dictionary). Dental fear, anxiety, and phobias negatively affect patient care and can develop from an early age.


A cross-sectional study of 100 patients from the Pediatric Dentistry Clinic of the Federal University of Parana found that 74% of children and adolescents between experienced some form of dental anxiety based on the responses that were measured with the Corah’s Dental Anxiety Scale (DAS) and the Trait Anxiety Scale (TAS). This can be seen in Figure 1 on page 11 (Assunção et al., 31:175). Comparison studies such as the one carried out by Bedi, Sutcliffe, and Donnan; showed that the prevalence of severe dental anxiety in 6-7 year old children is higher than any other age group (Bedi, 2:17-24).


Dental anxiety, fear, and phobias have been shown to persist into adulthood that can potentially lead to dental avoidance in patients. A study at Jimma University Specialized Hospital showed that children with dental anxiety were found to have avoidance of dental treatment (Bezabih et al., 115-21). Avoidance is not strictly a childhood affliction. One study suggests that, in the US, more than 80% of the population fear dental treatment, and 20% avoid the dentist due to severe dental fear (Milgrom et al., 116: 641-7). When narrowed down specifically to adult patients, a study on the prevalence of dental fear and avoidance found that approximately 10% to 20% of the adult population in the western industrialized world report high dental anxiety; most also report this reaction as having developed in childhood (Gatchel, 118: 591-3).


It is exceptionally important to treat anxiety in the childhood stages of development not only for the sake of the child’s health but for the benefit of office revenue as well. Parents who experience anxiety are likely to pass on these traits to their children, regardless of if they intend to or not. A cross sectional study of patients at the Pediatric Dentistry Clinic of the Federal University of Panama found that dental anxiety scores were correlated among the adults and children, and associations were found between children’s trait anxiety and the dental and trait anxiety of their parents (Losso et al., 175).


There is a harmful cycle in which a child develops dental anxiety, fear, or a phobia and the anxiety persists into adulthood. Dental anxiety that the adult faces is then passed onto future children, who in turn develops their own dental related anxiety and begins the cycle anew. A model of the dental fear cycle can be found on page 11 (Figure 2, Armfield). A study on maternal dental anxiety found that children whose mothers exhibited a moderate or high level of dental anxiety had an increased likelihood of exhibiting cavities and tooth decay when compared to children whose mothers reported low dental anxiety (Goettems et al., 46:3-8). Consequently, dental avoidance influences the bottom line of a dental office and negatively impacts revenue due to missed appointments, cancellations, and difficulties with patient recall (Koohoot).


It is also important to note that aside from monetary loss there is often a cost in time and resources in dealing with a child who experiences dental anxiety, fear, or phobia. Anxious patients tend to overestimate pain and discomfort caused by dental treatment and may also postpone or miss appointments with negative consequences for their oral health and often having to incur more complex interventions, thereby entering a vicious cycle that tends to intensify anxiety with regard to treatment (Armfield et al.). As a result, the frequency of dental diseases and unpleasant dental experiences is greater among children with more anxious and uncooperative behavior in comparison to non-anxious children (Themessl-Huber et al., 20:83-101).


In terms of anxiety treatment there are countless medical and behavioral techniques that can be used on a patient-by-patent basis. However, in order to counteract anxiety on a broad scale, changes to the dental office environment can play a crucial part. There have been several investigations into the effects that the built environment has on patient health outcomes. This can be shown in long-term effects of healing, the mental health of the individual during the treatment, and even the mindset of the patient before arriving at the healthcare environment. There is suggestive evidence that aspects of the designed environment exert significant effects on clinical outcomes for patients (Rubin et al.).


Georgia Houston, a graduate of industrial design at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Environmental Design, completed a master’s degree that focused on the significance of using design alternatives to promote a positive dental experience, as well as improve long-term dental health. “Design won’t eliminate procedures that are uncomfortable, but it can shape young patients’ perception of an experience which is paramount,” says Houston. “Through design we can help reduce anxiety before, during and after the dental office visit, while increasing the child’s sense of choice and control over the experience” (Obad).


The focus of many of these investigations and studies is what is known as ‘supportive design’. The term supportive refers to “environmental characteristics that support or facilitate coping and restoration with respect to the stress that accompanies illness and hospitalization” (Ulrich). Supportive design can come in many forms. From the color of paint on the walls to the texture of the flooring, every small aspect of a design plays a role in impacting the psychological state of the patient. Supportive design has become a key feature in dental construction and renovation.


An example of supportive design is found in dental theming. Theming refers specifically to “the use of an overarching theme in order to create a holistic and integrated spatial organization of a consumer venue” (Lukas). A prime example of dental theming by Imagination Dental Solutions is an office that is designed to look like a playful jungle or a calming underwater scene. A full supportive design environment often includes illustrated wall murals, fully three-dimensional sculpted characters, and interactive elements that match the overarching concept. There is an increasing demand for creative solutions to positively impact the mental and physical well being of patients and staff in medical environments.


The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) released a reference manual for dentists in 1990 that has since been updated periodically to include new guidelines for managing patient behaviors in pediatric dental practices. Throughout the manual, they discuss the need for supportive design by way of a child-friendly reception area that can both provide a distraction and indicate that the staff has a genuine concern for young patients. They explain that these first impressions may influence future behaviors in patients (AAPD). In his journal on the Effects of Healthcare Environmental Design on Medical Outcomes, Roger Ulrich discusses the notion that humans react positively and pay attention to the following types of features or environmental-social content: comedy or laughter, caring or smiling human faces, music, companion animals, and nature such as trees, flowers, and water. Many themes that Imagination Dental Solutions creates include calming natural environments, waterfalls, and companion animals that give off a friendly and humorous vibe. An example of this would be a jungle-circus dental theme in which an illustrated wall mural is filled with friendly animals in humorous situations such as a snake being used as a tightrope, while the background highlights rounded plants and aquatic areas.


Dental theming is also a key component of positive distractions. Positive distractions refer a “subset of environmental-social conditions marked by a capacity to improve mood and effectively promote restoration from stress” (Ulrich). Traditionally, positive distraction has come in the form of asking a child to imagine a positive situation in their mind, count ceiling tiles, or even calculate arithmetic in their heads. Though all of these tactics help distract children to a degree, they only help if the child is able to concentrate, and they do not further supportive design or the environmental characteristics that make this form of design so successful.


Offering a tangible distraction can positively impact the medical experience, which is where dental theming plays a crucial role. Imagination Dental Solutions creates ‘I Spy Murals’ that encourage children to find characters and items throughout a large illustrated art piece. Giving a child a task such as searching through a wall mural to find hidden treasures can shift the focus away from the procedure at hand, while also supplying the aforementioned natural fauna and flora that human beings find comfort in. A large wall mural also provides positive distraction through bright colours that can improve mood through colour theory. A study on the positive influence of art in hospital environments found that the majority of patients reported positive emotional reactions to art depicting natural environments having scattered trees and/or non-turbulent water features (Carpman et al.). In his journal Stress Recovery during Exposure to Natural and Urban Environments, Ulrich notes that these particular nature scenes are quick to produce mood improvement and elicits beneficial physiological changes such as lower blood pressure and reduced heart rate (Ulrich, 201-230).


Recently, hospitals have begun testing on the use of positive distraction in pediatric environments, an action that can be mimicked in children’s dental clinics. The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh pioneered what they coined as ‘distraction rooms’. They included wall murals and characters to distract children from the action of taking a CT scan in order to lower fear and anxiety that caused many children to require sedation during treatment. The results of the distraction rooms led to a 97% reduction in sedation rates. After such an overwhelmingly positive change in patient mindset, the hospital has since constructed 28 more distraction rooms (Hilton). Offices that have created supportive design themes through Imagination Dental Solutions have found similar results. Dr. Tonya Triplett began with a single themed pediatric dental office in 2004. Since then, she has created three fully themed dental offices and reports that the themed environments have been responsible for bringing in thousands of new patients. Dr. Djuana Cartillar, who wished to bring the feel of Disney Land to her patients, reported that they expanded their practice after seeing the joy that supportive design brought to young patients (Mitchell, 43-44).


Dr. Barbara Sheller, DDR, MDS, the Chief of Pediatric Dentistry at Seattle Children’s Hospital explains that it is critical for a pediatric environment to provide warm, welcoming signals to reinforce patients and parents that they have come to the right place. The most important signals to soothe and satisfy social-emotional connections that influence childhood anxiety include: bright, upbeat colors, kid-targeted activities in the waiting room, and a sincerity of staff at the practice (Sheller).


In conclusion, dental anxiety, fear, and phobia have longstanding effects on children, however these negative experiences can be altered through support design, conscious choices in office décor, and positive distractions. These design considerations counteract anxiety on a broad scale to provide a positive experience through dental theming.


FIGURE 1 – Trait and dental anxiety frequency distribution among children, adolescents and their parents

FIGURE 2 – Dental Fear Cycle

Works Cited

American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Guideline on Behavior Guidance for the Pediatric Dental Patient. Chicago: American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, 2005. Print.
The American Heritage Science Dictionary. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005. Print.
Armfield, Jason M., Judy F. Stewart, and John A. Spencer. “The Vicious Cycle of Dental Fear: Exploring the Interplay between Oral Health, Service Utilization and Dental Fear.” BMC Oral Health 7.1 (2007): 2. Print.
Assunção, Cristianemeira, Estelamaris Losso, Roberto Andreatini, and José Vitornogara Borges De Menezes. “The Relationship between Dental Anxiety in Children, Adolescents and Their Parents at Dental Environment.” J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent Journal of Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry 31.3 (2013): 175. Web.
Bedi, R., P. Sutcliffe, P. T. Donnan, and J. Mcconnachie. “The Prevalence of Dental Anxiety in a Group of 13- and 14-year-old Scottish Children.” International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry 2.1 (2009): 17-24. Web.
Bezabih, S., W. Fantaye, and M. Tesfaye. “Dental Anxiety: Prevalence and Associated Factors, among Children Who Visited Jimma University Specialized Hospital Dental Clinic.” Ethiop Med J Apr.51(2) (2013): 115-21. Print.
Carpman, Janet Reizenstein, Myron A. Grant, and Deborah A. Simmons. Design That Cares: Planning Health Facilities for Patients and Visitors. 2nd ed. Chicago: American Hospital, 1993. Print.
Gatchel, R.j. “The Prevalence of Dental Fear and Avoidance: Expanded Adult and Recent Adolescent Surveys.” The Journal of the American Dental Association 118.5 (1989): 591-93. Web.
Goettems, M.l., T.m. Ardenghi, A.r. Romano, F.f. Demarco, and D.d. Torriani. “Influence of Maternal Dental Anxiety on the Child’s Dental Caries Experience.” Caries Res Caries Research 46.1 (2012): 3-8. Web.
Hilton, Lesette. “Calming Kids’ Hospital Anxieties.” Contemporary Pediatrics. Modern Medicine Network, 1 June 2014. Web. 16 June 2016.
Kohoot, M. “Latest Innovation in Patient Dental Anxiety Reduction Now Available Fr.” PRWeb. N.p., 20 Mar. 2014. Web. 13 June 2016.
Lukas, Scott A. The Themed Space: Locating Culture, Nation, and Self. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2007. Print.
Milgrom, Peter, Louis Fiset, Sandra Melnick, and Philip Weinstein. “The Prevalence and Practice Management Consequences of Dental Fear in a Major US City.” The Journal of the American Dental Association 116.6 (1988): 641-47. Web.
Mitchell, Victoria, and Micaela Blondin. From Imagination to Creation. Vol. 4. Calgary: Imagination Dental Solutions, 2016. Unpublished Print.
Obad, J. “EVDS Student Offers Emotion-based Design to Improve Children’s Experience at the Dental Office.” UCalgary. University of Calgary, 19 Dec. 2007. Web. 15 June 2016.
Rubin, Haya R., Amanda J. Owens, and Greta Golden. Status Report: An Investigation to Determine Whether the Built Environment Affects Patients’ Medical Outcomes. Martinez, CA: Center for Health Design, 1997. Print.
Sheller, Barbara. “The Power of Positivity in Managing Pediatric Patient and Parent Behavior.” Dental Economics. N.p., 22 Mar. 2016. Web. 16 June 2016.
Themessl-Huber, M., R. Freeman, G. Humphris, S. MacGillivray, and N. Terzi. “Empirical Evidence of the Relationship between Parental and Child Dental Fear: A Structured Review and Meta-analysis.” BDJ Br Dent J 208.8 (2010): 83-101. Print.
Ulrich, Roger S., Ph.D. “Evidence Based Environmental Design for Improving Medical Outcomes.” Building Research Information Knowledgebase. Texas A&M University, n.d. Web. 16 June 2016.
Ulrich, Roger S., Robert F. Simons, Barbara D. Losito, Evelyn Fiorito, Mark A. Miles, and Michael Zelson. “Stress Recovery during Exposure to Natural and Urban Environments.” Journal of Environmental Psychology 11.3 (1991): 201-30. Print. 


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IDS Experts – Dental Education Stations Engage Patients While They Wait

May 30th, 2017

As an expert at designing displays for museums and engaging children in educational activities, I know how to attract people to focal points, create a safe and interactive environment, and make education a fun activity.

Educating the public is a skill. Whether it’s for museum visitors or dental and medical patients, the same rules apply.

Here are the questions I ask myself during every project we create here at IDS:

  • Will the target audience be engaged and find it appealing?
  • Is the content clear and are the learning outcomes relevant to what you want to express?
  • Is it durable, safe, and robust enough to handle children?
  • If there are moving parts or any electronics, is there a plan for ongoing maintenance?

Part of the education we provide is through interactive displays and education stations. These are a great way to engage both children and adults and can be a fun way to draw people in for a more appealing and memorable dental experience.

Our latest tool for helping dentists educate patients is the Education Station. Whether it’s a feature in your waiting room, or a dedicated educational room filled with different stations that teach various aspects of dental care, there is a lot we can teach young patients about their teeth.

These stations include great educational tools like:

  • A giant model of a mouth so children can learn how to brush and floss their teeth.
  • An interactive station lets them touch and smell giant teeth with stinky cavities.
  • Microscopes that reveal real plaque up close while an illustrated graphic explains why plaque is bad.
  • A custom quiz app tests their dental knowledge.

Using touch, smell, informative visuals, hands-on tutorials, and electronic games, Education Stations are engaging for different ages and will be appealing to different learning styles. Patients are given a new level of education that they might not receive at home.

Designing interactives that are strong enough for kids.

I often need to ask questions such as “what is the best case to protect this tablet’s screen from damage?” and “what size of screws are needed to keep this item secure?”. I ensure that the interactives we add to office environments are durable enough for everyday wear and tear from children while still delivering the fun or educational message you want to convey.

As a company, we focus on details that may seem insignificant to some, but to us, they are extremely important and can transform an office from typical to extraordinary.

From our artists to our engineers, we pride ourselves on the level of expertise each team member brings to the projects we create. Our experts want to offer some insight into their work and offer professional advice to help your dental office reach its full potential.

Pre-Production Manager
Exhibit Design Diploma
Joined IDS in 2011

Fun Facts for Kids – Wow Your Patients with These 3 Interesting Facts about This Weird Appendage

February 1st, 2017

The tongue. Not a common conversation topic, yet such a critical part of human and animal survival. Without it, we can’t talk, eat or drink. Those are pretty important functions and in the animal world the tongue plays an even bigger role and has some pretty funky adaptations. Here are 3 weird facts that you can share with your young patients to get them interested in anatomy.

1. Most people are familiar with the chameleon; it has the longest tongue in the world in relation to its body. But did you know it has a sticky, mucus tip on its tongue that can lasso around any prey pulling the victim back in at lightning speed?

a long chameleon tongue catching a caterpillar

Hmmm, you know, we’re pretty sure we’ve seen this same technique used by moviegoers on their freshly popped popcorn. Who needs hands when you have a tongue!


2. Cats, giraffes, anteaters, and snakes all have tongue adaptations that enable them to groom, strip thorny bushes, dip into ant mounds, and even smell!


3. Nothing is as crazy as the tongue-eating isopod! It’s a critter, well a parasite actually, that targets fish by infiltrating its gills and latching onto its tongue. It not only proceeds to consume the poor fish’s tongue, but it will replace it with its own body, providing the fish with a new fully-functioning tongue it uses, albeit begrudgingly, to grind food against tiny teeth on the roof of its mouth.

an ispod tongue parasite in a fish mouth

Yikes! Maybe the phrase should be “Isopod got your tongue?” No thanks; we think we’d rather have the cat any day!


Humor has great uses when it comes to putting patients at ease. Using Humor with Your Patients by  states,

“Studies show that laughter brings physical benefits and releases endorphins. It also boosts the immune system, improves stamina, and can strengthen breathing. And, of course, there are emotional and social benefits too—like reducing depression or anxiety and helping us feel close with friends and family.”

So put your patients at ease and help them build a trusting relationship by injecting humor into your interactions with them during their appointments. You’ll set them up with a positive attitude toward their dental hygiene that can last their whole lives.