Imagine your child’s wide-eyed wonder when he or she walks into a jungle jamboree — to see a dentist.
For ten years, Newton-Sparta Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics has been wowing children with its inviting, fun waiting room, caring compassion, and a staff that knows how to make kids feel at ease.
The husband-and-wife team of Dr. Michael P. Lateiner (“Dr. Mike”) and Dr. Gloria Lateiner started the practice in 2011 with zero patients and minimal staff. They now have four associate pediatric dentists and two orthodontists working for them.
The couple wanted to create a practice that children found inviting. Gloria envisioned an office tree, in the spirit of the Rainforest Café. She stumbled upon Imagination Dental Solutions, a Canadian-based company that custom-designs offices according to different themes. They designed a jungle theme that engages both patients and parents, with beautiful fish tank and lighted bubble wall. There are also video games, which have been put on hold since the pandemic started.
“We’ve surrounded ourselves with a team that works together and has helped make my biggest challenges also my biggest rewards,” said Mike. “My wife is such an integral part of the planning, building, and growth of the office. Patients don’t see her, but they wouldn’t have all the fun experiences they have if she wasn’t such a creative driving force next to me.”
Dr. Ami Dhaduk joined the practice two years ago. “Often times, work doesn’t feel like work with the upbeat, fun, and positive environment the staff provides,” she said.
Dr. Tina Park agrees. “I look forward to coming in to work because I love the people I work with and the families that come in. It’s amazing to be part of something so big with people who have become my extended family.”
Dr. Bernadette Lapena feels a sense of family following her young patients through their formative years. “We are in some way part of all their milestones,” she said. “We move with them from pre-K to kindergarten, their sports achievements, graduating high school and getting excited with them when they decide on colleges.”
The practice is well known for its support of the Healthy Kids Running Series across the county, Town Days, and 5K running events. Lon time staff members can be found at sponsor tables at these 5Ks, and run in them too.
“We also typically host an annual ice cream social for our patients and their families,” said Liz Dehardt, a registered dental hygienist for the practice. “We have a petting zoo that has come, face painting, the local police, ambulance and fire departments to give tours of their vehicles and do fingerprinting for parents, and of course ice cream.”
In the fall, the practice offers a Halloween candy buy-back, paying patients one dollar for every pound of candy they bring in. Last Halloween the practice donated more than 300 pounds of candy to Operation Gratitude in California, Dehardt said. “They make and send out care packages to troops overseas throughout the year,” she said. :We also host different toy drives, clothing drives and other small donation raising events to help local families and their causes.”
Bringing out the ‘inner child’
Ten years is a big milestone, and Newton-Sparta Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics celebrated with a surprise for its staff. One work day a few weeks ago ended with a party honoring their hard work.
“For the past two years, working here has taught me the unbelievable value of working for and with great doctors and remarkable coworkers that I am blessed to call my family,” said dental assistant Paola Calderon. My job has become so much more gratifying while working for tiny humans and amazing and grateful parents.”
Dehardt has been with Dr. Mike since the beginning. “I love wearing rainbow sparkle high top sneakers and seeing my four-year-old patient skip into the room wearing the same shoes,” she said. “There isn’t anywhere else we can all act like the inner children we all still have inside. We’ve all had to adapt to so many changes over the last year with the pandemic, and our bosses took every angle possible to make us feel safe every step of the way. In an uncertain world, they’ve given us all the care they would their own families and we have been able to continue making smiles bigger.”
Lisa Blackwell has been in the dental field for 37 years and has worked as an office manager at Newton-Sparta Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics for the past seven.
“Dr. Mike is the best and most ethical dentist I’ve worked for,” she said. “He loves and treats each child like he would his own. The doctors, hygienists, assistants and front desk administrators are the best team I’ve ever worked with.”
The office offers a large variety of toothpaste and fluoride flavors that make any kids’ taste buds happy. “We are almost as good as your local ice cream shop,” Dehardt said.
Patients wish the practice a happy decade anniversary and applaud how Newton-Sparta Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics operates.
The Griffin family discovered Dr. Mike ten years ago. He has treated all six of the family’s children, including two special needs children. They are now grown up, ages 24 to 28, and “they all still talk about Dr. Mike as being the best dentist,” the family says. “The atmosphere of the office is always welcoming. The jungle animals greet you when you enter, and the staff always has a cheerful smile.”
Elizabeth North says Dr. Mike “wows” her family, even her husband, with his exceptional work.
“As a parent of five children, seeking care for them is a challenge,” she said. “Add in the additional needs of autism spectrum disorder, and there are moments when you can’t imagine anyone capable of handling your child. We have seen Dr. Mike on a number of occasions now, and each and every time we are flabbergasted by his efforts, kindness, and overwhelming capability with a child who has extra needs.
“In the beginning, Seraphina needed sedated dentistry in the hospital. Dr. Mike and his staff at the hospital continued to support me through the surgery. Since then, he has worked diligently with our dentist at home to provide my daughter with the best care for her. This morning my husband took my daughter in again, and his compassion, kindness and capability once again made us believers that there are angels walking among us.”
“I love wearing rainbow sparkle high top sneakers and seeing my four-year-old patient skip into the room wearing the same shoes. There isn’t anywhere else we can all act like the inner children we all still have inside.” Liz Dehardt