New dental clinic in Pasco takes patients under the sea

There's no way to miss Pasco's newest dental office -- just drive down Burden Boulevard and watch for the prow of the pirate ship with a giant pink squid peering through a spyglass.

Walk inside -- after passing under the life-size walrus over the doors -- and you'll feel like you've stepped into a theme park, not a dental clinic.

Apple Valley Dental caters to kids, though they do treat adults. Its four partners also operate clinics in Union Gap, Yakima, Sunnyside and Spokane.

One of the partners, Dr. Patrick Ferguson, said the whimsical approach works because kids benefit from stimulus. It's dinosaurs in Yakima, the jungle in Sunnyside and a different nautical theme in Spokane.

"We found we had families sitting on the floor of the waiting rooms with nothing to do and decided we needed something for them," Ferguson said. "We spent about 80 hours over a couple of years working on the first themed office."

The Pasco office features 3-D boats, undersea creatures and sharks -- complete with braces -- suspended from the ceiling and swimming along the walls. It's all custom work, made to order.

The waiting room includes six Xbox video consoles loaded with games, a theater area for Disney and other children's movies, a boat and climbing toys.

The clinic is divided into orthodontics, which has its own room with eight chairs, and 10 chairs for general dentistry.

There are two TVs in each room -- one on the wall, another on the ceiling -- to keep kids distracted during their dental work.

"They almost forget what we're doing," Ferguson said. "Distraction is the key.

"Dentists now are a kinder, gentler bunch. We just take it to an extreme," he said. "We know from working with kids that if we can make going to the dentist fun, not scary, they'll have a better experience at the dentist the rest of their lives."

The other partners are Dr. Derek Thompson, Dr. Todd Steinhart and Dr. Chris James. Their first clinic, Yakima Family Dental in Union Gap, which opened 10 years ago, is the only one with traditional dental office decor.

The clinics employ 125 people, according to corporate manager Jolene Bakba. The partners also plan to open clinics in Spokane Valley and Seattle but have yet to decide on themes for those.

Hours for orthodontics are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday. Hours for general dentistry are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every other Saturday.

The office opens officially on Tuesday, but tours will be offered on Monday.

A grand opening celebration is scheduled July 20 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be free access to a bouncy water castle, balloon animals and cotton candy.

"We're handing out free toothbrushes," Ferguson said.

The address is 6525 Burden Blvd., Pasco, and the phone number is 728-9460.

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