A Dentist’s Office Disguised as an Undersea Playground

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We spoke with Joeamy Rios, a dental assistant at Adelberg Montalvan Pediatric Dental and Orthopedics in Nesconset, N.Y., about working in an office with an aquatic theme.

Highway hamlet

Nesconset is a hamlet in Smithtown on Long Island. We’re on a busy road, in the same office park as a law office, a day care center and a BounceU. We’re also near Lake Ronkonkoma and Stony Brook University.

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Ocean adventure

The moment you walk into our office you feel like you’re under the sea. We have a fun aquatic theme. There’s a killer whale, a dolphin, a hammerhead shark and a deep sea diver hanging from the ceiling, and an eel and a dolphin on the coral reef pole. Even our littlest patients can identify some of the items, and they get so excited.

Toddler action

Our youngest patients like the wooden train set and the activity center with the beads. Most are not happy to stop playing when I come out to get them, but others look forward to seeing the dentist.

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For the older ones

The video game stations are mounted at different heights for various ages. No one likes leaving in the middle, but I promise them they can come back and play while mom or dad is checking out or talking to the dentist. In those cases, a child will occasionally ask me to join in and I can’t say I mind.

Latest acquisition

Recently we got a projector that displays games like soccer and Whac-a-Mole on the floor. The kids get to run around and they love them.

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Uniform benefits

I love wearing scrubs because I don’t have to think about what to put on in the morning. Ours are royal blue, which fits with the nautical theme. I like to get a feel for new patients from the front desk staff. Someone will give me a heads up if a child appears nervous, and I’ll take them on a tour of the office.

Last chance hallway

The walk from the lobby to the private rooms at the end of the hall can be scary for our younger patients. I often hold their hand to make them feel comfortable. Also, they get to see the older children getting their teeth cleaned through the open archways, and that usually calms them.

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Firsthand experience

When I started here four years ago, the dentists showed me ways to be gentle with children. I also tell patients that I’m a parent, and just like I wouldn’t bring my little boy anywhere he would be afraid, the same holds true for their parent.

Room routine

Before the dentist enters the room, I have children pick a toothpaste, new toothbrush and a movie to watch while in the chair. I have 15 flavors of toothpaste for various ages. The younger ones can take forever to pick one out, but they usually have a short attention span and I can distract them so we can move on. I might say, “Oh, look, I have a new toothbrush with the Minions on it, from the movie.”

Modern distraction

My favorite item in the office is the TV on the ceiling for the younger patients who need to recline all the way so the dentist can look in their mouth. Dentists didn’t have these when I was a kid, so I take advantage now. I get my teeth cleaned here and watch HGTV, the home improvement channel, during the session.

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Lunchroom respite

Our lunchroom isn’t decorated, so while I like the fish décor, lunchtime is a nice change. It’s great to have adult company and conversation, but sometimes we’ll mention the cute little girl in a Cinderella costume who came in that morning. Or a child will stick their head in the doorway and say, “What are you doing in here, do you get to watch TV?” or will ask what we’re eating. I usually bring a salad.