As a child, Dr. Raelene Fulford only had one answer for anyone who asked what she wanted to be when she grew up: a pediatric dentist. Her passion for dentistry was fostered by her father, a small-town family dentist.
Once she grew up and became a dentist herself, she started thinking about opening her own practice in Colorado. That’s when she remembered a piece of advice someone gave her early in her career, “Incorporate your passions into your office.”
Her first two loves were learning dentistry and working with kids, but the third was her love of the outdoors. “My family and I spent our summers camping, canoeing, hiking and visiting National Parks,” she remembers. “I am still an avid outdoor enthusiast and spending time in nature gives me a sense of peace and is my source of energy.” Wanting to combine her love of the outdoors and desire to create a unique kid-friendly dental office, the idea for Camp Little Tooth was born.
Campers instead of patients, canoes instead of exam chairs, a treehouse instead of a waiting room, and counselors instead of staff. Raelene was able to create a one-of-a-kind pediatric dental experience where every point of contact goes back to the fact that these children are at camp.
“Everyone plays a part. The staff is trained on how to interact with the campers as counselors. The interior is all wood with high ceilings — it gives it a cozy feeling. There is a nature path, The Colorado River Trail, which leads camp families to the log cabins where treatments are completed. My desire is for kids to be excited about coming to the dentist and feel that they are part of something special.”
Designing and running such an intricate office requires patience and attention to the smallest of details. Raelene did not want to take any short-cuts. “I was very stressed out and I didn’t know where to start,” said Raelene, “When I brought in Patterson, they were able to get a handle on the ordering right away. After that, I knew I could count on them. It alleviated so much by them saying, ‘No problem, I got that.’ It gave me the time back to focus on what I needed to, which is my patients.”
A big part of the experience at Camp Little Tooth is a reward system that Raelene created. Campers can earn tokens and camp badges throughout their visit for tasks such as taking X-rays, completing their cleanings and for not having cavities. This system has also proved effective to help kids get over the fear of going to the dentist. If a camper is scared to do something, they can earn tokens for facing their fears. “Parents love it, being able to see their kids overcome something. They get into it just as much as the kid,” said Raelene. They can use their tokens at the camp store to trade in for fun trinkets and toys.
Just as popular as the tokens and badges is Montana the “camp” dog. Montana is a registered therapy dog who is absolutely adored by the campers. If a child is having a hard time during an appointment, they can request that Montana lay beside the dental chair to provide comfort. And since Raelene is all about promoting whole-body wellness, each appointment ends with the camper receiving an adventure pass that gives discounts to sports and nature camps, and to local museums.
One of the main reasons Raelene chose to work with Patterson is they mirror the same values she has for her practice. She is a believer in building long-term relationships through trust and meaningful experiences. “They read my personality right away and put me and my needs first,” recalls Raelene. “Personal touch and face-to-face communication is so lost now with social media. You still get those quality interactions with Patterson.”
Raelene was the recipient of the 2019 Most Loved Pediatric Dentist in Boulder county and the winner of the award for Excelling in Pediatric Dentistry. If you ask any of the parents or patients who visit her office, they will tell you that is no surprise.