At 'fun' dentists, young patients grin while they bear it

January 26, 1993|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff Writer

Your kids would rather eat a tub of Brussels sprouts than go to the dentist, you say?

Well, what if there were video games, toys and prizes to be had? How about a Game Boy at every dental station?

Linda Curry's children "couldn't wait to get here today," the Pasadena mother of two said yesterday.

And Anita Cline of Annapolis said that her children "look forward to coming." In fact, the one who "didn't get to come today was mad," she added.

What's going on here? Are we really talking about the dentist?

We are if we're talking about Drs. C. "Jay" Tull III and Gregg T. Behling, who have a busy practice in Arnold. They are among a handful of county dentists who specialize in treating children.

While the walls of other dentists' offices are done in tastefully muted colors, these have brightly stenciled borders.

There is a playhouse in the waiting room and stuffed animals and toys in the treatment areas.

"The entire facility is geared up for kids," said Dr. Tull, who has had a pediatric practice in Arnold for nine years. "It's open, bright, colorful. Parents bring them here because they like the environment. Why not bring a kid someplace that's fun and less threatening?"

Mrs. Curry agreed that extra touches, like drawers stuffed with treats and prizes can turn a potentially difficult experience into a pleasant one.

She took her son, Ryne, 7, "to a regular dentist and he wasn't happy at all," she said. "They just brought him back, sat him in the chair. The offices were dreary. It wasn't child oriented at all. Here, they make it fun."

Yesterday, the half dozen youngsters receiving a variety of treatments at the Arnold office seemed to be having a dandy time.

Ryne and his four-year-old sister, Lacey, smiled happily into a mirror as they practiced brushing their teeth for a good five minutes. Britney Sullivan stood on a stool playing a "Ms. PAC" video game after her appointment. Her mother had to ask her to leave.

"She loves it. She can't wait till the next time she gets to come," said Vivian Sullivan of Stevensville.

Dr. Carol Orlando, a pediatric dentist in Crofton, said parents might chose a dentist who specializes in children over a regular dentist because they have two years of specialized training.

"Parents choose a pediatric dentist because they are looking for specialized care," she said.

Dr. Tull gave another reason: "We love kids. It's fun."

Pediatric dentists are relatively rare -- the Anne Arundel County phone book lists only a half dozen of them among dozens of regular dentists.

But the idea is growing in popularity, said Dr. Nilda Collins, an Annapolis pediatric dentist.

"A lot of people are not aware that there is such a specialty," she said. "But I see a trend toward this. I think we will see more in the future."

Pediatric dentistry is one of eight dental specialties that require additional training after dental school.

Pediatric dentists see children from infancy, for special problems and screenings, through early adulthood.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests that children have their first screening, which is less involved than a cleaning but can pick up potential problems, by age 1.

Dr. Collins said good dental care from an early age can head off many problems later on.

"Our whole goal is preventive," she said. "Our goal is to keep children cavity-free."

Children aren't always the best patients, said Dr. Tull.

They often have to be coaxed and distracted, and some dentists may not want to treat children for that reason.

But, to him, a difficult child is just part of a day's work.

"Sure, there's some challenging patients," said Dr. Tull. "But for every challenging one, there are 20 who are just great."

"They keep you charged up," added Dr. Behling. "It's really fun to treat kids."

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