By Emily Hajec
Photos By Emily Hajec Photography
When you think of your child’s dental office, what comes to mind? Perhaps the first thing you might envision is the waiting area. It is, after all, a very important element of the visit itself. It’s the room that greets patients upon entry; the area in which your child will wait (sometimes anxiously) for their name to be called and then beckoned to the back for the impending exam. Sometimes the wait is a quick five minutes. Other times, it may be a bit longer. Either way, it’s safe to say most parents would argue that–regardless of the amount of wait time–the reception room of a pediatric dental office needs to offer plenty of stimulating activities for busy little bodies.
Dr. Erik Roos, D.D.S., of Chico Pediatric Dentistry couldn’t agree more. In fact, he spent nearly three years designing one of the most unique, interactive, imaginative play structures you might ever find in a doctor’s office (or anywhere for that matter!). One that is truly out of this world…quite literally and figuratively.
At first glance, the reception area of Chico Pediatric Dentistry is much like you’d find at any ordinary dental office. Rows of upholstered beam seating for patients; recent issues of People Magazine slightly strewn on the end tables; and framed photographs of smiling children adorn the walls. Yet in the far corner of the waiting room, there’s something interesting. Something large. Something enticing. No; it’s not your average bubble spewing fish tank, latest video game, or giant lego table. It’s something exciting. Something with a door. It’s something that not even parents can avoid exploring. It’s a spaceship!
“Welcome. Access granted!” announces a Star Trek-esque voice as each “astronaut” enters through the dark, narrow tunnel leading into the shuttle. Once inside, turn a corner and imaginations are immediately transported to the final frontier! A dark, very life-like pilot’s compartment with a variety of consoles, dozens of different types of buttons, space sounds and various commands, star maps and monitors light up the space shuttle’s cockpit. Children are put right in the captain’s seat of something straight out of Star Wars. It’s nothing short of pure, creative inventiveness.
So why not offer kids just a simple, average play area–a few books, coloring activities, or video games?
“Most dental reception rooms have an area reserved for children to sit and play. Many of these, however, are small and cramped,” says Dr. Roos. “Given that we specialize in children’s dental health, we also wanted to provide a large area that encourages creative play. Since video games are so prevalent in our culture and are self-absorbing, this play structure instead offers kids a chance to interact and play with each other.”
As mentioned previously, the design and construction of the space ship took three years from start to finish. And while Dr. Roos was the master mind behind the idea of this marvelous play structure, he credits a team of incredibly talented people who helped him through the process of making his vision a reality. Felix Hofer is a master cabinet builder who was instrumental in the construction of the space ship; Britt McNairn is credited for her design and painting of the mural of Chico (which covers the outside of the space shuttle, and features iconic Chico buildings such as Collier’s, Bidwell Mansion, The Bear, and Bidwell Presbyterian); Gail Bellomy helped with the design and painting of the play area’s kitchen; Steve Whitfield assisted with the electrical assembly of the ship; and Chico Signs & Graphic Design also constructed the plastic panels that hold all 90 buttons! Surprisingly enough (even with all the LED lights and buttons), the entire structure runs off of no more electrical power than a hand held hair dryer.
If you’re lucky enough to be a patient at Chico Pediatric Dentistry, you know that both Dr. Roos and Dr. Tornabene are excellent dentists. But almost as importantly when it comes to kids, they truly care about the experience their patients have when they visit. Not only will parents be sure to keep bi-annual appointments, their child will actually enjoy and look forward to them, and make some fun memories while they’re at it!