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Patients at American Canyon Orthodontics don’t have to go far for braces OR pumpkins this season.

The braces business created its own pumpkin picking patch – and it’s located inside the dental office waiting room.

“Parents and kids alike are always so excited when they come in and see this pumpkin patch in our waiting room,” said Dr. Jeff Nichelini.

It all started in 2014 when Nichelini opened his dental office at 3419 Broadway #1 in American Canyon.

“We wanted to decorate for the holidays and we figured let’s just buy pumpkins,” and kids can take them home for free, he said.

Early in October, the dental office has up to 600 pumpkins delivered, along with a few bales of hay. Bought wholesale, the average cost comes to about $5 per pumpkin. Staffers then pile pumpkins in every conceivable corner of the waiting room and up against against every wall, he said.

“Everybody smiles when they come through the door,” said the doctor.

“I like the green aspect of it,” he said. Instead of buying plastic decorations from a big-box store, pumpkins are organic and won’t take up space in a landfill.

Both patients and siblings are welcome to take a pumpkin. “Sometimes even adults get excited and want to take home a pumpkin too.”

Nichelini said there is one more reason his pumpkin patch is so popular.

“It’s the best selfie station in American Canyon,” he said. “All the parents have their kids sit in the patch. It makes for really nice pictures.”

Patients of Dr. Nichelini — and his business partner Dr. Matt Cozin — range from age 7 to their 90s. Most are teens and preteens.

The orthodontics industry is fun, said Nichelini. “That’s because people are really excited about changes that they can see.”

“It’s never fun to get a root canal but it is fun to choose the (rubber band) colors on your braces. That is a nice side benefit of the job.”

Ultimately, he’s helping people stay healthy and maintain functional oral health, he said.

In addition to the pumpkin patch, the footwear at American Canyon Orthodontics is also fun. The staff wear Converse sneakers in different colors. He has at least 10 pairs, said the orthodontist, including his newest in gray and burgundy. In addition, by keeping their teeth clean and wearing their rubber bands, patients at American Canyon Orthodontics earn tickets to be entered in a monthly drawing for prizes.

The business also sets up a Christmas tree stocked with wrapped gifts. Each patient is allowed to choose one gift. A friendly office dog, Lula, greets patients each day. Staff pose for photos with patients and post them on social media. They also volunteer at and attend community events.

For people who had braces 30 or 40 years ago this emphasis on “fun” at the orthodontist might be surprising. But “I think there is greater recognition that when you can make the office environment more fun it’s better for patients, for staff and for me,” said Nichelini. “Because everybody would rather have fun at work. Even though the work is serious, you don’t need to be stuffy when you’re working with kids.”

What about the clean-up? It doesn’t take long, said the doctor. A week before Halloween, all but about 75 pumpkins had already been picked. Later, the hay bales used for decoration will be donated to a local horse.

This isn’t Nichelini’s only dental office. He also owns Up Valley Orthodontics in St. Helena with Dr. Ken Shanahan. However, unlike his American Canyon location, that office does not feature a seasonal pumpkin patch.

That’s up to his office manager, he said with a laugh.

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You can reach Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or jhuffman@napanews.com

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.