GREENBRAE, Calif. – Mill Valley’s Ava Erskine is unlike most five-year-old kids.
She enjoys going to the dentist.
Ava’s recent dental visit was different from most. She surrendered every piece of her hard-earned Halloween candy.
It’s an annual tradition at Dr. Gila Dorostkar’s pediatric dental practice in Greenbrae. For more than a decade her 6,000-plus pint-size patients have donated their candy to our troops and first responders.
This year’s goal was 1,000 pounds of treats which will go to the Sacramento-based non-profit “Moving America Forward,” and it will eventually end up in care packages.
It’s a win-win for both patient and the dentist.
“The parents are happy to get rid of the extra candy, and we are happy to accept it so the kids are not munching on it for weeks to come. And it’s fun,” said Dorostkar.
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Dorostkar has mastered the fun part. Her therapy dog Aspen greets every patient, and during their cleanings, kids can watch animated movies on the ceiling while sitting in the chair.
She tries to take the scare out of dentistry. So, it’s no surprise she uses Halloween to teach both parent and patient a lesson.
For Ava, she said giving up her candy wasn’t hard.
“I want to be kinder than necessary for other people,” she said.
Dorostkar believes establishing a positive environment for the kids is vital.
“A child’s first experience with the dentist is so important. We realize that when grown-ups are afraid to come to the dentist it was usually something frightening they experienced as a kid,” she said.
Many of the treats come complete with personal notes. Even Dorostkar contributes, though she admits she too enjoys a few treats.
“It’s totally fine to have candy every once in a while. I enjoy candy too, but after two or three days it’s time to get it out of the house, and what better way than to help others in need,” she said.