The Prize Drawer

Dec. 1, 2008
Depositing a fistful of coins into a prize vending machine hoping to win a ticket, token, or treasure is a delight for children.

by Karen Kaiser, RDH

Depositing a fistful of coins into a prize vending machine hoping to win a ticket, token, or treasure is a delight for children. Prize–dispensing machines are often found as you enter a department store breezeway or among other machines in an arcade, offering a fun challenge as they accept your spare change. Familiar claw–grabbing machines hold a variety of assorted prizes such as sports–related balls or stuffed animals. As you glance through the Plexiglas®, a toy that is deeply buried in the mound of prizes is often the one that catches your eye. After you deposit your money, you grab the joystick and maneuver the pronged crane around inside the machine, hoping to land on the prize and then manage to retrieve it safely. If you are a happy winner, the prize drops into the chute.

In the dental office, having a "prize drawer" ready to dispense treasures delights patients of all ages. The prize drawer can be a drawer, cabinet, or other designated area where you keep rewards. A plastic or corrugated cardboard toy chest type dispenser is also an option. Treasure chests hold a bounty of assorted toys, games, and puzzles. Patients love the thought of getting a little something extra after their dental visits and are excited about selecting a prize. For younger patients, this incentive drawer gives them something to strive for especially when they are having a challenging time during dental treatment. The reward may be as simple as a peel–off sticker or more elaborate with more expensive items. With so much to choose from, do not be surprised when patients want to completely empty the prize box, scattering items all around to make sure they see all of the possibilities before making their selection.

A well–stocked prize drawer may include a variety of novelties. Inexpensive items such as high–bounce balls and inside–out poppers are a hit with both boys and girls and are available in larger sizes, thus eliminating choking hazards. Take precautions when offering sticky and stretch–type toys. These prizes may end up on the office ceiling as children test the trinkets and toss them about. Be prepared to hop up on a chair to retrieve them from the ceiling! Many patients like pull–back action toys such as cast cars and trucks.

Patient giveaways

Seasonal and holiday–related themes are a great idea. When it is back–to–school time, consider office insignia pencils, pencil eraser toppers, or fun key chain backpack pulls. For seasonal sports, why not give a pop–up football, sports maze puzzle, or show community support by offering the local professional or high school team's rally gear? Commemorate the Fourth of July with red, white, and blue novelties. Many of these giveaways are economical and come packaged in a larger quantity so the prize drawer stays consistently stocked.

Jewelry is a popular fashion item for girls, such as necklaces filled with shiny lip–gloss, adjustable mood rings, and flashy necklaces. For young artists, consider coloring pages and crayons. These items can have your office contact information imprinted on them and also serve as an internal marketing tool for your practice. Go a bit further, encourage creativity among your patient base, and have a coloring contest with a prize for the winners.

For adult patients, consider a sampling of xylitol gum with all of its decay–hampering benefits on hand at the countertop. Have tasty sugarless gums available for patients to take from the handy dispenser box and then enjoy. Spry sugar–free gums from Xlear Inc. are available in a sample box with assorted flavors of cinnamon, fruit, peppermint, and spearmint, each individually wrapped. Patients appreciate the mouth refresher while your office treats them to the benefits of xylitol.

What better prize than to offer your patients a winning smile? To better help your patients visualize the potential, consider having a book in your operatory with before–and–after smiles that will serve as a visual hand–held reference. One such book, "Amazing Smiles," authored by Dr. Albert Kurpis, does an impressive job of covering the beginnings of cosmetic dentistry.

Through this book, your patients will experience how life–enhancing smile makeovers can bring a smile to their faces. Perusing the hardbound book, patients learn basic dental terms as well as the "golden proportion," a formula that explains how smiles appear visually appealing. This comprehensive book will have your patients asking key questions about how your office can restore smiles to meet their wants and needs through cosmetic dentistry. In the back of the book, a section of frequently asked questions answers the basics about cosmetic procedures. The lengthy smile gallery will have patients paging over the possibilities for improvements to their smiles.

The children in your practice want an amazing smile, too, even when it becomes toothless. Kids' smiles go through stages as they exfoliate deciduous teeth. Make these moments memorable by offering your patients a prized place to store those special teeth. The Baby Tooth Organizer offers a cherished place to arrange those shed souvenirs. The hobbyist who enjoys scrapbooking will rave over an inexpensive insert into the album which catalogs his or her child's teeth. A tooth album is also available and allows the parent the opportunity to save both photos and teeth. A tooth tin is an idea for the new patient or parent to your practice. This tin organizes and has a tooth drop chart, allowing the parent to record dates and make this a keepsake for the child's transitional smile. Consider offering these types of purchasable prizes during Children's Dental Health Month or any time of year. In addition, these gifts build lifelong patient loyalty when your practice presents these to valuable patients.

Patients are the true prize of the practice. Make your office's prize dispensing area tempting by having small token treasures available as rewards. Incentives excite patients, help build patient relationships, and are just plain fun.

The author did not receive compensation for products mentioned. For more prized information, visit the Web at,,, and

About the Author

Karen Kaiser, RDH, graduated from St. Louis' Forest Park dental hygiene program in 1994 and currently practices at the Center for Contemporary Dentistry in Columbia, Ill. She has written several articles for RDH and other publications, sits on dental hygiene panels, and is an evaluator for Clinical Research Associates. She can be contacted at [email protected].