What To Look For In A Pediatric Dentist

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Um, hi, Jen? Have you lost your mind? What does a pediatric dentist have to do with kids interiors? Relax. I hear ya! Beyond having fantastic staff, design is a crucial tool to a kiddos dentist experience. Let me tell you more (and bonus for Seattle-area families: I'll introduce you to the wonderful Dr. Benjamin Sun, my family's pediatric dentist. You'll want to meet him, too!)

Pediatric Dentist Must Have: Color Scheme And Overall Feel

The moment you open the door to the office you'll get a sense of the visit ahead of you. Ideally it'll feel inviting and playful but also calming.

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  • Color is a MUST in a pediatric dentist office.

    • Neutrals quickly take it way too cold and clinical for these guys. Not nerve-settling at all

  • Primary colors work well in lots of places, but they're a lot of energy in a small room.

    • You don't want circus level activity

  • Warm colors (red, yellow, orange, pink, etc.) in general exude energy

  • Cool colors (green, blue, purple, etc.) soothe


At Pacific Pediatric Dentistry (Dr. Sun's office), you walk into a fantastic "under the sea" feel. With a soft orange, green and aqua theme, the colors welcome with a warm, but at the same time, calming feeling. Crucial for kiddos setting foot in the door for the first time.

Pediatric Dentist Must Have: Child's Play

Chances are good you're not going to walk in and straight back to the hygienist. And waiting? Not great for kiddos at the best of times. Throw in a bit of nerves and it's going to get messy quick. Ways to keep them occupied include:

Kid-sized seating

  • Nothing makes you feel better than having a place to sit comfortably, am I right, Goldilocks?

Areas to move their bodies if they need to

  • My boys are movers. Knowing this and knowing that they'll have to lay fairly still for the cleaning means an opportunity to "get their wiggles out" ahead of time is a relief.

  • Dr. Sun's office has fun rooms, nooks, crannies, stairs, lots of places to explore

A variety of activities (and not just an old busy box)

  • The key here is variety. Not all kids are sit and read kiddos. Mine certainly aren't!

  • A good selection of toys, games, books and yes, possibly TV, means something for everyone.

Pediatric Dentist Must Have: The Cleaning

Time to go! They announce your child's name and you go back to the room for a good polish. Here's what to look for.

Feeling welcome

  • Kiddos totally read situations. When greeted warmly and respectfully (not talked down to) it makes a huge initial impression

  • This applies to the adults, too. It should be no problem to accompany your little one during the cleaning.

Comfort

  • I've been to a few dental offices for kids (including Dr. Sun's) and I see more and more "tables" for kiddos to lay down on rather than chairs

    • I don't know about you, but I still get butterflies in my stomach when that dental chair starts tilting back. None of that for these kiddos!

  • Sunglasses make the bright examination light totally doable

  • The kiddos in Dr. Sun's office get head phones and a choice of movie to watch on the ceiling

    • This lets them have autonomy in what they're watching AND drowns out any whirring and whizzing from the cleaning

Loved ones nearby

There needs to be a place for a loved one to accompany the child if they want them there

  • I know when I was little my mom was in the room but kind of off in a little corner. I couldn't even see her when I tilted back!

  • A great solution for this is modular seating that can move around where mom/dad need to be (but can also get out of the way)

    • This can be as simple as a traditional office chair with wheels or like Dr. Sun has, moveable ottoman/stools

  • Oh, and they need to be at the height of the kiddo. Of course.

Pediatric Dentist Must Have: The Reward

That's it. Cleaning's over. How do we ensure that this continues to a pleasant experience for the kiddos?

Goodie bag

  • From a kiddo's perspective, getting choices over the toothbrushes they're sent home with or the flavor of toothpaste are huge. And they'll want to use them even more!

Little treasure

  • I remember as a kid getting a little toy at the end of my visit. Was it something I've kept to this day? Nope. But it served its purpose and boy did it mean a lot at that moment

  • Okay, Dr. Sun's office is way cool here. The kiddos get a token and get to choose from one of those gumball type machines that we never ever give them coins to use. Little toy: big delight.

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Positive reinforcement

  • Kids love to do well. And praise for a "no-cavity" visit or first x-ray goes a really long way.

  • As in most things, my kiddos listen to other authority figures WAY more than me. It's important for the messages between home and dental office to be the same

Last, and most importantly, is the feeling between both dentist and patient and grown-up and patient. You can have all the things listed above checked off, but if it doesn't "feel" right it's going to cause anxiety. Don't force the fit!

Get the look

Okay, I'm not suggesting you install the whole dental office in your home. But you can certainly make the bathroom just as fun with the design ideas mentioned! Here are a few ways to bring "under the sea" home.
 

A huge shout out to Dr. Sun and his amazing crew at Pacific Pediatric Dentistry for providing such wonderful care to my kiddos and others. And a hats off to Lori Saleba of Freiheit Architecture, who designed Dr. Sun's office.