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Creating the Disneyland of Dentistry
Published Thursday, June 15, 2017

From left: Partners and dentists Tim Smith, Melissa Kennell and Matt Smith. Photo by Scott Murphy.

Like veggies and chores, visiting the dentist’s office isn’t the highlight of most children’s days. Melissa Kennell sought to change that when she founded Children’s Dentistry in Gilford, a pediatric dentist office with a wilderness themed interior and a goal of easing children’s anxieties about their check-ups.

“I wanted to create the Disneyland of dentistry,” says Kennell, who opened the office in 2011 after working as a dentist for Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia. Faux birch trees, nature murals and sculptures, the “Molar Express” model train chugging overhead and the life-size office mascot, Bernard the Bear, provide whimsy and fun. The waiting room’s mountain-lodge style furnishings are next to an entertainment area for kids, which includes puzzles and games for young children as well as an Xbox for teens.

Down the hall, patients ranging from babies to 18-year-olds sit in a variety of dentist chairs and rooms, all designed for kids’ various needs. Teens and pre-teens can opt for private rooms away from a large, open area where younger kids are seen by a hygienist and dentist with their parents nearby if they need support.

“We try to have a team approach between us, our patients and their parents,” says Matt Smith, a pediatric dentist who joined the practice in 2012. He says the open environment helps kids have a better time in the dentist chair.

At about the same time Smith joined, the practice was enjoying rapid growth. As patient volume grew, it became clear that the North Country had a severe lack of options when it came to pediatric dentistry, with some families driving two hours for appointments.

To meet the need, the partners opened an office in Plymouth in 2014 and Littleton in 2015. And the staff grew from five to 23, including adding Matt's brother Tim as a pediatric dentist. The additions expanded the practice’s offerings to more patients in the White Mountains and beyond, including Lincoln, Berlin and Eastern Vermont.

All three doctors rotate between the offices to keep their practice personal across all locations. “We try to make visits a fun experience for kids and give them a good foundation for their future dentist visits,” says Kennell, with Smith adding that they aim to “teach kids how to become good adult patients.”

With a broad network established, the three partners are focused on building out their existing locations and hiring more dentists. The practice now offers conscious and deep sedation options for oral surgeries, and the practice purchased more space at the Gilford location’s office building to add more treatment rooms. For more information, visit childrensdentistnh.com.

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