“Open wide like a alligator for me,” Dr. Gayathri Raju told 5-year-old Loralai Webb during her visit to the dentist on Thursday morning, followed momentarily by “Gather your teeth together like you’re biting into a sandwich.
Moving on to 5-year-old Kingston Brewton for his checkup, she concludes he has “no sugar bugs” or cavities.
“A sugar bug? he questions.
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“Sugar bugs cause cavities, don’t they?” Raju tells her.
“What Are Sugar Bugs?” he asks again.
“Insects that cause cavities! They are sugar bugs,” she explains.
For a moment, Kingston seems to understand, before asking once more, “Sugar bugs?
Raju, who is used to communicating with children, laughs. Having just opened his office, Ocala Pediatric Dentistry on national road 200, she has the ability to see dozens of children daily and pursue her passion while helping fill a need in the community.
“I’m a small business owner,” she said. “It’s a startup. Pure passion, hard work, courage and determination, that’s what it is.”
Child-friendly cleanings, fillings and more
The office, which opened to patients in February but won’t open until early summer, offers a variety of dental services for children, and employees are trained in special techniques for young visitors.
Raju, who earned his Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree from the University of Florida and his pediatric dentistry certificate from UF, Naples, provides cleanings, fillings, extractions, emergency services and techniques minimally invasive dentistry as an alternative to sedation if needed.
Many features and practices in the office are kid-friendly, including an open bay with a TV so kids are less confined for cleaning and cordless tools when possible.
“We have our cordless prophy jets. It’s basically to eliminate all the wires and all the gear associated with dental cleaning, so for kids, that translates to if they have an electric toothbrush at home, so the amount of anxiety is definitely reduced,” she says.
Although there are stationary x-ray machines, another high-tech feature is a portable x-ray machine that dental assistants can take to the patient. She also eliminated harsh lights above chairs in exchange for lights on magnifying glasses or glasses for assistants.
Get into good habits early
Two of parents’ favorites so far are a mommy-and-me style bathroom with a kiddie toilet and the ability for parents to observe their children’s visits.
“The big problem is that parents are allowed in the back of my cabinet,” Raju said. “I was trained like that. I would never think about not having the parent when I do a procedure at that time just because they need to know how their child is reacting.
Her primary focus is education and she was drawn to pediatric dentistry with the goal of instilling good habits in children early on rather than changing them in adults.
“If I can get them to think about their oral health as something that is done on a regular basis, and that’s part of life and being healthy, then instilling those habits early in life is just huge,” a- she declared. mentioned.
So far, her youngest patient was 4 months old, and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends visits before a child’s first birthday.
The office also has a special room for babies 2 and under and a comfortable chair for the parent to hold the child during the exam. It also serves as a recovery room after sedation.
“We don’t use words like ‘prick’, ‘injections’, all that stuff,” Raju said. “We say ‘sleep juice’ and ‘mosquito bites’ and things like that, and it works with the distraction with the kids.”
Meeting the Need for Pediatric Dentists in Ocala
Raju also has additional training in caring for children with special needs, who she says are “close to her heart”, especially those with autism or ADHD.
“We see a lot of sensory processing disorders in young children. They don’t like the light. They don’t like sedation, and working with them is certainly a challenge, but it’s important that they get dental care,” she said.
There is a quiet room separate from the others for those who need it, and advanced minimally invasive techniques can replace sedation if needed.
While there are many general and family dentists in Ocala, there is only one other dentist who specializes solely in pediatric care, so Raju sees his practice filling a great need in the southwest area of Ocala. ‘Ocala and beyond.
“When we did the initial demographic study, there were about 10 to 11 schools in that area,” she said. “It’s the part of town that’s growing – a lot of young people and new families are coming in.”
Ocala Pediatric Dentistry accepts various insurance plans, or there is an alternative membership program for an annual flat fee that covers two cleanings and offers emergency services and 10% off the usual fee for any procedure additional.
Pursue the American Dream
Raju previously worked in a dental business for two years, but wanted to run his own practice and have more face-to-face time with parents.
“We want to have these long-term relationships, and we want to grow with your family as your kids grow up, and that’s technically not plausible in the corporate world,” she said.
Whereas she previously saw about five patients every 20 to 30 minutes, she now spends an hour with four patients at a time and talks to each parent individually about treatment plans.
She is also becoming more and more integrated into the community. For every new patient, Ocala Pediatric Dentistry donates a week’s worth of meals to Food 4 Kids to help local children in need.
Moving to Ocala and establishing his new office also ticks other boxes for Raju.
“I am an immigrant. I’m from India, so this is my American dream and I’m working hard on it, and part of that dream is to do this and have a meaningful work-life balance,” she said. declared.
Ocala Pediatric Dentistry is located at 5330 SW College Road Suite #1 in Ocala. It is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and by appointment only on Fridays. To visit pediatricsdentisteriefocale.com for more information.
Contact reporter Danielle Johnson at [email protected]