Computer game adds teeth to dental education

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Computer game adds teeth to dental education

Bye bye bumble bee, the murder house is entering the 21st century.

For decades the cotton wool comforter has been a medal of honour for children leaving the dreaded school dental clinic but with the development of a zany video game, its days may be numbered.

Wellington dental psychologist Linda Jones - formerly of Normanby - is working with a team at Massey University and in the United Kingdom to create an electronic game designed to ease anxiety in children before they step into the dental chair.

It will also be used to gather information about the child's knowledge of dental hygiene, which in some cases is particularly poor, Ms Jones says.

At this stage the video game is called Dental Jungle.

It's not finished yet, Ms Jones is interviewing 400 children nationwide to see what they think it should look like.

Yesterday she was at Bell Block School and pupil Kaya Selby, 6, was entranced.

He knew exactly what to do with Ms Jones's laptop and said if going to the dental clinic meant he could play a computer game he would be "happy".

"I like this game," he said.

"And I've got lots of computer games on my mum's computer."

Kaya wasn't one of the kids dreading the drill although he did say it was "a little bit scary," and he tried to be good.

After playing with the video game Kaya even announced going to the Murder House would make him "super happy".

Ms Jones said for the non-anxious children such as Kaya the game was just something to pass the time but for those with anxiety it would serve as a distraction.

"We are developing a tool to help kids at the extreme end, not so much kids who are as happy as he is," she said.

"It's a relaxation technique but will also gather information about the child.

"It's going to be a complex game."

Ms Jones said they had decided to use a computer game because it was a technology children were familiar with and enjoyed.

"You have to look at what technology kids are using and use what kids are interested in," she said.


The research is funded by a $9000 grant from the Ministry of Health's oral health research fund and the game should be available to dental professionals by 2011.

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