Anyone who doesn’t think it’s possible to engage kids without screens has never visited the Utah pediatric dental practice of Dr. Tyler D. Hanks. His 3700-square-foot office was designed to reduce the anxiety of going to the dentist, which can be extreme for many kids. Instead of using games on screens as a distraction, Happy Tooth Pediatric features an active waiting room play area, eye-catching art, and a basketball court at the check-out. It looks more like a fun children’s museum than a dental office.

A wide angle view of Dr. Tyler Hanks' pediatric dental practice. There are colorful stools, light fixtures, installations, and murals.

Dr. Tyler Hanks created a dental space that all kids would enjoy that was also reflective of his own personality, using details such as the colorful light fixture that includes shoelaces to incorporate his love of shoes. (Photos courtesy Dr. Tyler Hanks)

When he started his career as a pediatric dental assistant, Dr. Hanks was able to notice areas that could be improved during the patient’s appointment. He felt that even pediatric dental offices did not seem geared toward children’s actual needs and interests. From this experience, Dr. Hanks cultivated a specific vision to create his future practice.

“The entire aesthetic was designed to look like anything but a dental practice and families can see that,” Dr. Hanks said.

Three doors on sliding tracks in a white hallway are marked with large red numerals: 1, 2, and 3.

Based in Millcreek, Utah, Happy Tooth Pediatric‘s expansive layout was made to accommodate many appointments per day while still giving parents the space and privacy that they need.

Dr. Hanks overlooked no details while creating the practice that he wished existed for his four sons, ages 9, 7, 5 and 2. He wanted to create a space that all kids would enjoy that was also reflective of his own personality. Dr. Hanks did this with details such as the light fixture including shoelaces to incorporate his love of shoes.

The thoughtful and creative details are meant to be a comfortable way for children to become familiar with the dentist. Avoiding discomfort and anxiety from the get-go creates the perfect foundation for kids to associate the dentist with play spaces, fun colors, and eye-catching art rather than uncomfortable, unfamiliar experiences many people associate with going to the dentist.

“Every little detail of the design, the office layout, the marketing, the team uniforms, the smell of the practice, the colors, was carefully thought out… we wanted a fun children’s museum, no screen, active play area for our waiting room and a basketball court at the check-out.”

Dr. Tyler Hanks, Mill Creek Utah

A colorful, open play area with colorful oversized shoelaces dangling from the large light fixture of 6 globe lights, and colorful, child-sized stools around a small table for activities.

Dr. Tyler Hanks’ Happy Tooth Foundation non-profit creates a legacy of giving back through dentistry

This consideration of the children’s experience is a huge part of Dr. Hanks’ efforts to create a legacy of giving back through his non-profit, Happy Tooth Foundation.

“Our plan is to raise money through my dental practice and the NBA to provide care and build tech to help underserved children around the world,” Dr. Hanks said.

Dr. Hanks founded this non-profit with big picture goals in mind. He recruited friends that partnered with the band, Imagine Dragons to create the Tyler Robinson Foundation. Dr. Hank’s passion for accessible pediatric dental care and experienced friends helped him create a foundation that fights for meaningful change.

Dr. Tyler Hanks is wearing a red shirt. He is standing in front of a large, colorful mural that prominently features the words "Bite Me."

Such an impressive business, of course, faced inevitable challenges, but Dr. Hanks was able to overcome them by remaining in close contact with business partners and patients. Regarding challenges with the property during construction, Dr. Hanks said working closely with his landlord, contractor, and dental tech helped him navigate difficulties.

Lease negotiations occurred when the pandemic hit in 2020, which delayed construction completion by three months. Dr. Hanks did not let this additional challenge cloud his drive the process.

“I faced the same challenges as anyone across the world with the pandemic, all meetings were via Zoom and most conversations were through email,” Dr. Hanks said.

With so many elements incorporated into the amazing design of his practice for kids, Dr. Hanks aimed to assemble it all into a cohesive brand. With the help of marketing company Hoodzpah, Dr. Hanks kept social media in mind when finalizing the look of his practice.

“The mural and overall aesthetic promotes social media posts.”

Dr. Tyler Hanks, Mill Creek Dentistry

Straying away from the clichés of dental practices has proven to not only be effective for easing children’s anxiety, but also to be successful for online marketing as well. Happy Tooth Dentistry Instagram currently has just under 10k followers and their TikTok has over 125k likes. This rapid growth online is off to an amazing start and has already garnered prestigious industry recognition: Dr. Hanks earned an Incisal Edge 40 Under 40 award for young dentists in 2021. 

Dr. Hanks is living out his passions for pediatric dentistry and having fun doing it: “I have always had more fun hanging out with kids, being loud and wild, and making dentistry a happy experience.”

The bright, color-blocked cover of Incisal Edge that features an image of Dr. Tyler D. Hanks on the left, and on the right it says "America's Best Young Dentists" and "40 Under 40"