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Children’s Museum of Montana opens ‘tooth booth,’ celebrates 17th birthday on Saturday

Exhibit aims to help make kids feel more comfortable with going to the dentist

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Dentists are often feared, or even hated, by people across the world. At the same time, though, they can be the most important doctors a person will ever see in his or her life.

After all, we use our teeth every day to chew our food, to help form the words we speak or to show off our emotions and facial expressions.

For that reason, along with many others, seeing the dentist, or the orthodontist, doesn’t need to be painful, especially for kids.

That’s the central idea behind the Children’s Museum of Montana’s new exhibit “The Tooth Booth” put together with help from Marshall Orthodontics, the primary sponsor of the exhibit. It debuts on Saturday during the museum’s 17th birthday celebration from 9:30 a.m. To 5 p.m., with a reduced admission of $1 per person. At 1 p.m. there will be a ribbon-cutting and cake to celebrate the new exhibit and anniversary celebration.

Sandie Edwards, director of the Children’s Museum, said the idea came from the folks at Marshall, who floated the idea after the museum’s hospital exhibit opened last year.

Edwards said the space has two primary purposes, one to help children become more comfortable with going to the dentist or orthodontist, and secondly to help teach kids more about dentistry and how to properly care for your teeth and gums.

CMOM ad tooth boothThe exhibit features an x-ray wall, dental chairs, reception area, educational models, and hands-on learning through play. Edwards added that there’s a giant tooth that kids can put magnetic braces on, as well.

On Saturday kids can also take pictures with the “Tooth Fairy” as portrayed by Christy Blee, owner of Christy’s Boutique.

“Christy is a neat, animated lady. She’ll be here to take pictures with the kids with a Tooth Fairy costume and she’ll have someone in a big tooth costume, as well,” Edwards said. “The Marshalls will be here giving information about the profession. The school will be here giving info about their program and kids can learn how to properly floss and brush their teeth.”

The MSU Dental Hygiene Program helped with the education component of the exhibit, with the goal of helping children and families feel comfortable with visits to the dentists as well as educating the importance of such visits.
The Tooth Booth is located on the second floor of the Museum and will be a permanent exhibit. This exhibit will specifically teach visitors about the importance of oral health, about the workings the mouth, how to get and stay healthy and the science behind the medical profession.

Edwards said they’re expecting at least 900 people to come through the museum on Saturday and said even though they’re only charging $1 per person for entry, if a family cannot afford the admission, the museum will let them in for free.

“If someone hesitates at the cost, say you’re here with your five nieces or nephews and we hear that person say, “well, kids, let’s go to the park instead,” we’ll let them come in, we don’t turn anybody away, that’s right there in our mission statement.”

Edwards added that kids will get to put on lab coats and walk through a mini doorway between the hospital and tooth booth, which will make them feel like they’re both part of the same complex. She added that in addition to making kids feel more comfortable in a dentist’s office, it’s also designed to help encourage kids to start thinking in terms of careers in the dentistry fields, as well. She said that it gives kids the tools and may help them start planting those seeds if it’s something that they may one day wish to become.

A look inside the Childrens Museum of Montana.
A look inside the Childrens Museum of Montana.

Edwards added that this exhibit, along with all of the exhibits, would not be possible without the generous support of the community, both individual donors and business donors.

“Great Falls takes care of it’s non-profits, not just here, but everywhere – the History Museum, Paris Gibson Square, the Boys and Girls Club, United Way and all of the others, Great Falls really rallies for these organizations and they’ve continued to support us amazingly. Without that support we wouldn’t be here for as long as we have been, that’s a fact.”

Edwards said that every year since she’s been the director they’ve had an increasing number of people come through their door. She said a big part of the appeal is that parents can come to the museum and leave their day-to-day troubles behind for the whole time they’re there and just be parents with their children. It’s about being a family and teaching their kids important things about life that they might not have learned elsewhere.

For more information on the Children’s Museum of Montana, check them out on their website, on Facebook, or call them at 452-6661. The museum is located at 22 Railroad Square, right behind the Mansfield Center for the Performing Arts.

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