DR. RAELENE FULFORD’S PEDIATRIC PRACTICE TREATS CAMPERS, NOT PATIENTS, IN A WARM, NATURAL ENVIRONMENT THAT’S WHIMSICAL AND KID-FRIENDLY BUT FULL OF SOPHISTICATION.
BY EDWARD KOBESKY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY PHOCO PHOTOGRAPHY / DANIEL HOLTON, TRUSTED PHOTO
A TRIP TO Camp Little Tooth in Lafayette, Colorado, is an adventure, not an appointment. The practice, just east of Boulder, is a bright and airy space that brings outdoor elements inside, evoking fresh air and minimizing any sense of potentially tantrum-inducing indoor confinement. There’s a treehouse in the waiting room, for one thing. Instead of operatories, Camp Little Tooth has cabins. There’s even a Camp Store where patients (sorry—campers) can pick out a souvenir. If all that somehow fails to evoke wonder and delight, there’s Montana the therapy dog, who’s available all day for pets and kisses, no extra charge. (Naturally, he’s an influencer who boasts some 13,000 followers on Instagram. Check him out @montanathedood.)
Camp Little Tooth sprang from the imagination of Dr. Raelene Fulford as a genuine expression of her love of nature. She spent equal portions of her Colorado youth hanging out at her father’s dental practice and traveling to national parks and exploring the great outdoors with her family. She caught both the dental and travel bug, and has now created a practice that’s the health-care equivalent of a kids’ movie that parents can enjoy too.
“The outdoors is what I love. When I’m outdoors I feel peace and warmth and joy, so I definitely wanted that element. The question became, how do I translate that specifically for kids?””
—Dr. Raelene Fulford
The exterior’s stone finish is contrasted by the precise angles of large windows, an expanse of sleek concrete and eye-catching burnt-orange cantilevers jutting upward to support a series of overhangs. The result is a flawless blend of modern and outdoorsy—more like an REI store than a dental office, and similarly inviting. Inside, modern-industrial touches such as corrugated metal blend with real wood throughout. It’s visually interesting enough to distract from the dental equipment and technology, but without erring on the side of being busy or overwhelming.
“Philosophically, I wanted it to be an experience. My feeling is, do what you know and what you love. The outdoors is what I love,” Dr. Fulford says. “When I’m outdoors I feel peace and warmth and joy, so I definitely wanted that element. The question became, how do I translate that specifically for kids? So I needed to see it through a child’s eyes—figure out where we could add some Disney touches. I think you need to figure all that out and have a very clear vision before you can start planning your practice.”
Her big vision required a lot of help. Dr. Fulford’s brother, a graphic designer, created the majority of custom-branded materials, including the practice’s whimsical alpine logo. Her neighbor, an attorney, is helping to register the trademark—something dentists should think about more often, especially when they have a concept that’s potentially licensable or franchisable. Her architect, Paul Bautista, helped her articulate her vision for materials and bring it to life. A visit to Benco Dental’s CenterPoint design showroom in California helped with equipment selection and space planning. “That’s what sold me on Benco,” she says. That, and her Benco Equipment Specialist, Landon Lueck. “He was awesome. He gets a lot of props.”
Design Credits: Design: Dr. Raelene Fulford; Tiny Town Studios (treehouse and canoes); Bautista Designs—Paul Bautista (architect/design)
Space Planning: Paul Staritz, Benco Dental
Equipment Specialist: Landon Lueck
Friendly Benco Rep: Scott Snow
Branding Design: Jeff McDowall Design
Custom Wall Mural: The Bungalow Craft by Julie Leidel
Builder: BVB Construction
It’s not surprising that Camp Little Tooth is the work of a true polymath. Dr. Fulford taught English in Costa Rica . . . worked for a Washington, D.C., nonprofit where she rubbed elbows with the likes of Howard Schultz and Jane Goodall . . . speaks Spanish . . . plays the viola . . . dabbles in singing, musical theater and photography. (The list goes on.) As she settles into her second year at Camp Little Tooth, you can see why she loves it, and why her campers’ parents do as well. After all, would you rather tell your kid, “Remember, you have a dentist appointment today,” or “Don’t forget, we have to go to camp and visit Montana the dog”? The question answers itself.