Thursday, April 8, 2010 | 2:02 p.m.
Let’s be candid: No matter how unfounded the fear may be, many people panic at the thought of a dental appointment.
That apprehension may be even more pronounced in children, for whom a visit to the dentist – especially for the first time – can be downright scary, combining a fear of the unknown with concern about the possibility of pain.
Pediatric dentist Dr. Manny Rapp, owner of Henderson-based Adaven Children’s Dentistry, has an extraordinary knack for putting his young patients – and their parents – at ease.
“When kids come into an unfamiliar environment, they’re anxious and nervous, and I may not have many gifts, but one gift might be the ability to relate to those kids in that situation,” said Rapp, adding that he questioned his career path in the dental field until he had the opportunity to work with children.
“I wanted to be a dentist since I saw that “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” special with the misfit elf who wants to be a dentist, but in my junior year in dental school I started to see patients, and I though, ‘Wow, I don’t even like dentistry.’ But it was adult dentistry because they wanted us to gain confidence before we saw the little guys. Then I did my pediatric rotation and could truly say that’s where I needed to be.”
A 2000 graduate of Creighton University School of Dentistry in Omaha, Neb., who attended the University of Pittsburgh for his specialty training in pediatric dentistry, Rapp, or “Dr. Manny” to his young patients, does his best to make visiting the dental office a positive experience.
For example, upon arrival to Adaven (“Nevada” spelled backwards), which Rapp opened in Henderson in 2002, parents can swap their car keys for a Nintendo Game Boy, which keeps kids distracted in the waiting room. (The key exchange prevents patients from accidentally absconding with one of the units).
Once a patient is in the dental chair, Rapp and his staff utilize a “tell, show, do” approach, whereby they explain a treatment to the child, demonstrate how it works.
“Mr. Nose” – nitrous oxide – helps to relax uneasy children during procedures. His buddies – “Mr. Whistler,” “Mr. Bumpy” and “Mr. Thirsty” – are also invited to the party.
“We use the term ‘Mr. Whistler’ to describe the high-pitched noise the drill makes,” Rapp said. “Mr. Bumpy is our slow drill speed but it kind of vibrates, so we want the kids to be prepared for that. Mr. Thirsty is our big suction straw.”
Rapp, who sees children up to the age of 18, treats special needs patients of any age. A strong proponent of preventative dental care, Rapp works to educate young parents.
“If you start early, prevention is so much easier and less expensive,” said Rapp, who has also learned to be picky when it comes to his personnel. “I’ve learned that you can train someone to do dental work, but you can’t train them to become kid-friendly and personable. If you don’t like kids or can’t relate to kids, then you can’t work here.”