A kid-friendly dentist

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:47 AM

Dr. Darren Riopelle's 1,600-square-foot expansion features a 4,000-pound, custom- welded, life-size tree surrounding the receptionist's desk. It also has a monstrous toybox, planes hanging overhead in the boy's exam room and huge metal flowers adorning the girl's room.

Kids get their teeth cleaned in the ocean-themed “underwater room,” next to a colorful 125-gallon saltwater aquarium that holds Nemo look-alikes, starfish and shrimp.

“We see so many adults who have fear going to the dentist,” Riopelle said. “We find that's usually because of a bad experience that happened when they were kids. We want to go right to the source.”

Riopelle opened his Smile Grand Haven practice at 1203 S. Beechtree St. four years ago. He moved his practice here from Ithaca after spending summers at his family's Lake Michigan cottage.

The dentist recently surveyed 700 second-graders to see what they would like to see in his new space, which opened in September. His goal is to make his office friendly and fun, a place where children look forward to coming.

“When kids walk in, they want to come back,” Riopelle said. “We even have iPads for the older kids to play with.”

Next week, Riopelle will purchase candy from kids that they collected while trick-or-treating. The hope is that kids that consume less sugar will be healthier and have better teeth.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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