Kids dentist in Napa aims for good, lasting, dental health

The vision for the team of dental professionals who recently created Napa’s Howdy Pediatric Dental Studio is, in the words of owner Jordan Lamberton, “a call back to simpler times, so you can not worry about your teeth and live life smiling.”

The owner of both Howdy and Hello Ortho, which share the facility at 3449 Valle Verde Drive, Lamberton, 41, a native Napan, said the concept is to create an environment that is simultaneously modern and old-fashioned. He credits his wife Ashley, also 41, with the design of the physical space.

“The design of the environment, of the place and the experience… it’s modern, sophisticated and fun. It’s engaging. It feels fun to be inside,” Lamberton said.

“There are colored horseshoes on the back wall, TV screens on the ceiling for a non-drugged way of distracting patients from whatever procedure is underway. It’s not Disneyland, but it gives a vibe of a theme instantly, and it piques curiosity. Both our facilities (there’s an existing practice in Petaluma) give an adventure vibe.”

With its pine tree and oars logo, Hello Ortho, the couple’s other practice, “has more like a summer camp vibe… it’s like a feeling of family adventure. We want people to know you can relax about your oral health care,” Lamberton said.

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The Morris family visits Howdy Pediatric Dental Studio in Napa on Thursday, June 13.

Howdy presents a cowboy, dude ranch sort of vibe, he said.

“Kids love it; they come in and sit on a little horse. We have shirts that say ‘this is my first rodeo,’” Lamberton said.

Howdy’s resident dentist, Adam Shaffer of Walnut Creek, said he’s pleased to be operating at this unique Napa practice.

“My first interest in pediatric dentistry came from my own childhood dentist,” he said, explaining that a traumatic injury at age 10 nearly cost him a permanent front tooth and his dentist did some “rogue dentistry things” to save it, and that impressed him. It impressed him so much that he chose to work for that dentist as an undergrad.

“Eventually, my first official associate job was working for him,” he said. His philosophy for working with young patients grew out of this and other associations, he said.

“I worked in Fairfield for seven years, for an esteemed dental pioneer in the field; big on research on good clinical pain practice, which basically means how do you do what we do but not create negative experiences for the child,” he said.

“There are a number of principles to abide by to ensure the child has a good experience. First and foremost is to believe the pain reports of the child. If the child says it hurts, it hurts. This is not necessarily the ‘old school’ way. It’s better to err on the side of believing the child.”

Shaffer’s basic philosophy is that good pediatric dentistry is not about controlling a child’s behavior, but about not causing pain and creating a negative association with going to the dentist that can last a lifetime.

“Every child should be able to go to the dentist. You have to create that relationship and that environment,” he said.

“Some of that has to do with making it fun, but, even more, it needs to be a happy, pleasant, safe environment,” Shaffer said.

At Howdy, that begins with the practice’s interior design, he said.

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Yuna Morris, 2, gets ready to have her photo taken after a visit to Howdy Pediatric Dental Studio in Napa on Thursday, June 13.

“Ashley created a warm, welcoming environment,” he said. “She did a wonderful job with the thematic elements. We have this horse/western-y theme and a very warm, welcoming space that’s comfortable and fun for the children and the parents as well.”

Combining the physical environment with a specific approach to dental work in a way that works for everyone is the goal, he said.

“What I’m aiming for is creating a pleasant safe space and also making pediatric dentistry easier for everyone. If I had a mission statement, it would be, ‘making pediatric dentistry easy,’” he said.

“I hope with my conservative, patient-oriented model of care, pediatric dentistry can become something parents don’t have to worry about much. They have enough other things to worry about.”

This approach meshes well with the Lambertons’ similar point of view.

The team that took over the 45-year-old Napa pediatric dental practice of Dr. David Suttie when the popular dentist retired, did so intending to “create lasting bonds” with their patients “like the old fashioned country doctors used to do,” Lamberton said.

The idea is to start building a comfortable, familiar relationship with the dentist from very early on, he said.

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Registered dental assistant Stafanie Raphael sanitizes the chairs at Howdy Pediatric Dental Studio in Napa on Thursday, June 13.

Lamberton says that the team at Howdy is “not just teaching flossing techniques; we’re instilling stick-to-your-ribs wisdom for the long haul while celebrating your child’s unique, wild spirit in the process.”

With an established orthodontics practice in Petaluma, Lamberton and his wife didn’t think they’d own another practice, but they see pediatric dentistry as “synergistic with pediatric orthodontics.”

“When this opportunity came up, it was not only a way to take over a successful long-term pediatric dental practice, but also a way to be able to expand our Hello Ortho business with the building in Napa,” he said.

Achieving their stated goal won’t necessarily be easy, Lamberton said.

When many people hear the word “dentist,” fear and trauma are often the first thoughts that come to mind. The Lamberton/Shaffer team aims to create the opposite response.

“We are part of the healing profession, with many adult patients who were traumatized as children,” Lamberton said. “Even the way it looks, the environment, has to give the impression that this is a safe, fun spot.”

The approach to treatment is reflected in that, he said.

“For the orthodontics part, we try to minimize visits and make them easy. We use technology a lot. We use custom, softer, gentler technology. The environment is meant to feel more like a spa,” he said.

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Large screens showing children’s movies are seen on the ceiling at Howdy Pediatric Dental Studio in Napa on Thursday, June 13.

The same principles apply on the Howdy side.

The Lambertons are the parents of two children, age 4 and 18 months, and they created their practice with their own children in mind, he said

“We also wanted to make sure (our children) have a great dental spot for their visits, too,” said Lamberton, whose grandfather was an orthodontist in Thailand, where Lamberton’s father was born. Lamberton’s father later became a dentist in Napa, he said.

“I’m a third-generation dentist,” he said. Some truths have been learned in that time, he said.

“It’s about people. It’s working with people to achieve their goals. We get to change smiles, regain confidence and health,” Lamberton said.

“For pediatrics, it is part of making a relationship with dentistry for a lifetime of healthy teeth. You have this formative window, and we want to be part of the forming of good habits of oral health.”

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The Morris family books a future appointment after a visit to Howdy Pediatric Dental Studio in Napa on Thursday, June 13.

Even just bringing very young children into the office, as soon as their first teeth appear, so they get used to feeling safe at the dentist, is a suggested tactic.

Shaffer and his “all-star team” help set Howdy apart, Lamberton said.

“It is patient/parent-centric – everyone has a say. We avoid traumatizing the child. Parents seem to be responding well. They like to know the doctor cares about their kid,” he said.

Howdy Pediatric Dental Studio accepts all major insurance and also has its own membership discount plan.

“Our brands are about creating a luxury experience at affordable prices,” he said.

Info: 707-257-6453; 3449 Valle Verde, Suite C, Napa;

You can reach reporter Jennifer Huffman at 707-256-2218 or [email protected]