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Thursday, Sep 21, 2023

DENTISTS—Kids: ‘I’m Going to Dentaland’

A 6-year-old pulls at a joystick, coaxing the video game superhero on to victory. Across the room, a teen and her mom watch a movie-sized projection TV. But this is no amusement arcade. It is a dentist’s office. Welcome to Dentaland, where the newest trends in consumer marketing meet the age-old practice of dentistry. Gone is the white coat, open-wide-and-spit image that has long defined the profession. These offices are in shopping malls. Waiting rooms are equipped with video games, computers and play areas. Marketing strategies are tested in the same kinds of focus groups any consumer goods company would employ. And eventually, the Glosman family, which owns the practice, hopes to establish a chain of offices with a brand name as recognizable as the Gap. “It’s a heavy investment, but we feel there is a lot of potential,” said Natalie Glosman, who handles marketing for the family practice that includes her husband Leonard and son Arthur, both dentists. “Times are changing and we’re going with the times.” With such marketing efforts, the Glosmans may be on the cusp of a growing trend in the profession. “Niche marketing is a trend that’s present in all segments of our economy. Dentistry is not different,” said Dr. Myron Bromberg, a Reseda-based dentist who is working on a project on the future of dentistry for the American Dental Association. “It is probably an early trend. Will it bring patients into the office? I imagine it will.”Dentaland offers everything from general dentistry for adults and children to cosmetic procedures like bleaching and orthodontics, but the marketing message is aimed directly at kids. That way, the Glosmans figure, they can also attract a large number of parents who may, themselves, be intimidated by a trip to the dentist. “The whole concept came out of the fact that people are scared. Children are scared,” said Arthur Glosman of the fears young and old harbor about the dentist. “We try to give it more of a personal touch. We make an effort to make it cozy and keep all your senses busy.” Ahead of the crowd Leonard Glosman ran a traditional office for most of the 28 years he has practiced dentistry. But in 1998, when the Glosmans were looking for a new location, they made an interesting discovery. “I was looking out the window (of the former offices), and I saw on every corner there was a dentist,” Natalie recalled. “I was thinking, what can we do to be different?” An estimated 3,800 dentists currently practice in the greater Los Angeles area, according to the California Dental Association, nearly 1,000 of them in the San Fernando Valley. Hoping to distinguish themselves from the pack, the Glosmans remodeled a Montebello dental office into the first Dentaland in 1999. Arthur joined them that same year after he graduated from dental school, and the family added a second location at The Plant shopping center in Panorama City in May 2000. A third office in Westfield’s Shoppingtown Topanga in Woodland Hills opened last October. The Glosmans won’t divulge revenue figures for their privately-held business, but they say that the Panorama City office and Montebello office each handled 1,000 patients in the month of January. And they point out that the first two locations have grown sufficiently to warrant adding the third. The family-friendly approach begins with the location of the two newest offices, in shopping malls where parents can take care of errands and dental appointments in one stop. A television advertising campaign featuring shots of kids and the games in the waiting room calls Dentaland “the fun place to go to the dentist.” “As a marketing tool, (patients) see it on TV and, when they come into the shopping center, they recognize it and it becomes a brand name like Radio Shack,” said John Bermel, an advertising consultant who works with the family. The message is so appealing, it isn’t unusual for kids to ask their parents to take them to Dentaland. “She wanted to come,” said Ruby Zaragoza as she watched her 5-year-old, Synthia, play in the waiting room. Synthia didn’t like going to the dentist the family used to use, and she asked her mom to take her to Dentaland after seeing the commercials. “I don’t have a problem bringing her here because of the entertainment,” said Zaragoza. No white lab coats allowed Once inside, patients find a reception staff dressed in bright purple polo shirts embroidered with the Dentaland logo instead of white lab coats. For younger kids, there is a ball room, a kind of playground with colorful balls stacked waist high and the mechanical trucks that rock back and forth. For older kids, there are video games, computers and a projection television. At the Panorama City location, the dentist’s chairs are designed around a central workstation that looks like the command center of the Starship Enterprise. Each dentist’s chair is equipped with audio-video equipment so patients can watch TV or listen to music while under care. Novocaine is warmed so that it is body temperature. Kids get toys when they leave. On a recent afternoon at the Panorama City location, Osiris Moradaya was waiting for her 3-year-old son Joseph, who had marched happily off to the dentist’s chair by himself. “He didn’t cry or anything,” said Moradaya. “They’ve been treating the kids well.”

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