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Kids’ dentist opens shop on top of the hill

January 14th, 2011 by Jesus Chavez

The doors to Queen Anne’s only pediatric dentist, Seattle Kids Dentistry, opened earlier this week. Dr. Purva Merchant’s quaint office at 2223 Queen Anne Ave. N. is now accepting young patients for appointments on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

The office is equipped with basic child amenities like fruit-flavored gloves, flavored dental paste, flat-screen televisions playing DVDs overhead, and a children’s play area. Her staff will include a dental assistant and a receptionist, both Queen Anne residents. The small two-chair operation suits her intimate approach to her practice.

“Because it’s a small office, you get a lot of doctor time because there’s no place for the doctor to hide,” said Merchant. “We’re making a space that kids don’t feel overwhelmed by, where they feel welcome.”

The working philosophy of Seattle Kids Dentistry is prevention-based, individualized care, according to Merchant.

“Every child is different, you can’t put a blanket number on them,” Merchant said. “I want to treat them like I would treat my child – you get what you need when you need it, not you get what everybody else gets because that’s what the insurance company says.”

Merchant’s passion for dentistry can be traced back to her own dentist as a child in Pune, India outside of Mumbai. Merchant says she was a very positive influence in her life, and she hopes she can duplicate this inspiration in her own patients.

“You have the opportunity of being in someone’s life two times a year throughout their childhood,” said Merchant. “They only get an hour with you, but it can be an impressionable hour if it’s done right.”

She began her dental training in India, and won the title of Miss India in 2003 after dental school. Merchant dismisses the Miss India title as a small matter, just a footnote that pales to her passion for pediatric dentistry. According to Merchant, pediatric dentistry is a combination of her three loves – children, science, and art.

Merchant did her specialty training in pediatric dentistry in New Jersey, and she received board certification in Washington after moving here in 2007. For the last three years, she’s worked as an associate for Redmond Kids Dentistry, and she’s also worked in Mount Vernon, Factoria, Puyallup and other areas as maternity leave for other dentists. Even as her business grows she will continue working as an associate for Redmond Kids Dentistry two days a week, as well as continue her work as a part-time faculty member at the University of Washington School of Dentistry. In her spare time, when she can find it, she enjoys yoga.

The Queen Anne venture arose when Merchant looked for a house in Seattle with her husband, a software engineer at Microsoft. She discovered that Queen Anne didn’t have its own pediatric dentist, which she found surprising considering the number of families and children in the area. This led to the decision to open her own practice in the neighborhood. The office she leased will be shared with orthodontist Dr. Smita Patel, who occupies the space two days a week with her business Smiles by Smita.

Although new to the hill, Merchant says she’s found the Queen Anne community extremely supportive and helpful.

“People have been coming around donating toys, which has been really sweet,” Merchant said. “Queen Anne is a very tight-knit community; everyone wants to support each other, which is so fantastic.”

She enlisted the local, family-owned businesses she could in the remodeling process. She hired local painters and called Castillo’s Custom Upholstery when she needed to reupholster her dental chairs. She’s also been working on cross-promotions with local businesses. Merchant tentatively plans to hold an open house on Valentine’s Day to show off her new business to area residents and businesses.

Her first patient this week was her neighbor who chipped a tooth, perhaps a waste of the fruit-flavored gloves, but Merchant looks forward to treating her young patients, which she views as a special responsibility and opportunity. She hopes to instill positive attitudes about going to the dentist and dental care.

“It’s such an important, impressionable age,” said Merchant. “I feel if you do the right things at that age they will always be good dental patients.”

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