Dental Heroes: Helping Kids of All Ages and Developmental Levels Achieve a Lifetime of Good Oral Health

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Dental Heroes: Helping Kids of All Ages and Developmental Levels Achieve a Lifetime of Good Oral Health

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Dr. Sara Ghaemmaghami of Southern California has made her life’s work about helping children receive optimal oral care, no matter their background or developmental level. That’s why so many patients who have autism, Down syndrome, ADHD or other conditions have found their way to her.

Dr. Ghaemmaghami says that she and her team take great pride in changing lives, one patient at a time so they build habits that stick for a lifetime of superb oral health. It’s part of the reason why they are being honored by KaVo Kerr as Everyday Heroes. Through KaVo Kerr’s Everyday Heroes program, dentists and dental team members are honored for the incredible work they do to make their community a better place. For Dr. Ghaemmaghami and her amazing team, that starts at the youngest age.

“My mission is not to be a drill and fill dentist, but rather to start children early on the path to excellent oral health,” she said. “We want these children to come in when they get their first tooth with their parents/caretakers and learn these vital habits. Dental disease is preventable and if you take care of your teeth and learn how to do this at an early age, you will have a lifetime of health.

“I went into pediatric dentistry because I saw so much disease out there and believed that it was something that could be prevented. Lasting change is a product of daily habits and my mission is to teach children habits that have the most impact on their lives.”

She remembers one patient in particular and how his life was changed.

“A patient who really made a lasting impression on me was a 4-year old autistic boy who was fearful of doctors and dentists,” Dr. Ghaemmaghami explained. “I will never forget how through the effort of the whole office and his parents helped to put him at ease when he first came to see us. Initially, he was very anxious and could not hold the toothbrush, but through regular visits, the assistants taught him to brush by himself. They were determined to teach him how to take care of his teeth independently and were able to reach this goal even though the patient had to deal with so many challenges. The end result is that every six months, the patient shows up with no caries or gingivitis.”

Of course, there are challenges when working with children with developmental delays. However, Dr. Ghaemmaghami says that these challenges can be worked through in time.

“Holding the toothbrush is often hard for them,” she explained. “We will often work with the parent/ caretaker and add tape to the toothbrush handle so that the patient will have an easier time holding it in their hand. When these children come into our practice, they are very anxious at first. But they keep coming and we review home care with them.  With each repetition, it gets easier for them and their parents/caretakers. Just like when people exercise frequently, it becomes a habit and they feel bad when they don’t do it. It is the same concept with brushing and flossing daily and how it gets to be a priority. Taking care of one’s teeth will slowly become a priority and an important part of one’s daily routine.”

It takes a special team to not only work with children in the dental practice, but also to work with children of all backgrounds. Is it hard to find team members who have that passion? Dr. Ghaemmaghami says it is not and she takes great pride when talking about the individuals she works with on a daily basis.

“If someone has the desire to work with kids and a can-do attitude, that is the key,” she said. “They will often bring tremendous energy and enthusiasm into the practice and our patients can feel it. It is very rewarding and satisfying to be able to help these children and see the change in their mouth from disease to a healthy state.

Like so many of us, Dr. Ghaemmaghami and her team get more motivated when they see results. Every day, the patients who walk through the doors with changed smiles and viewpoints on oral health are a reminder of an attitude of service to help them to get better.

“For us, it’s about intention. We want to help people,” she explained. “We really say that and we really mean it. We want to make a change. We want our patients to improve and prevent any disease from starting or ruining their oral health. People who work here believe this genuinely and really work for this goal. They don’t view this as just another job. They care about people and love that they are doing something that impacts future lives. They are passionate about this mission and they see the results of what they do. Something as simple as seeing the gingiva lose its puffiness and become pink again feels really good.

“Oral health is related to overall health, no matter who you are. We want to help these children in every way that we can and I believe we are doing that here every day.”

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