By Deborah Bostock-Kelley

It’s a family affair at Pediatric Dentistry of Westchase, both for the patients and the practice. In 2021, a decade will have passed with Dr. Sandra Makram opening her practice in the heart of Westchase to treat young patients. In 2018, her sister, Dr. Christina Makram, joined the practice to expand the level of comprehensive dental services they could offer their young patients.

“I fell in love with the Westchase area. It’s such a great family neighborhood with wonderful schools and young families.”

Though dentists don’t have to be board-certified, both dentists dedicated the extra time to specialize in pediatric dentistry and went through rigorous exams to be certified by a national board.

“We provide care from birth to 18 years old. In the early stage, we want to create a dental home for children and families. We work closely with pediatricians, so if a child needs any  treatment, they already have an office to go to.”

Dr. Makram said that pediatric dentistry is not only a team effort with the pediatrician but with the parents.

It’s essential to Dr. Makram to have the parents involved in the child’s care. Before, a child would be taken in for the exam, and the parent would wait in the waiting room. Today, a dental visit follows the same procedure as a pediatrician visit. Parents are in the exam room with their children and are actively involved.

In the not too distant past, parents were instructed to bring their children to the dentist at 4 or 5 years old. Dr. Makram said that age is way too late to be proactive with their children’s teeth. She recommends bringing your child for a dental check-up around age 1. 

“Kids would come into the dentist – 4 to 6 years old – and at that time, would already have a mouthful of cavities. The American Board of Pediatric Dentistry encourages these early visits – 6 months after the first tooth comes in – typically around the child’s first birthday, but this may vary,” she said. “We want to try to get ahead of the problem.”

The first few visits aren’t to do anything invasive. The child is typically seated on the parent’s lap. This allows the parent to discuss medical history and any issues the child might be having. It gives the child the chance to become comfortable with the dentist and the dental visit. It allows Dr. Makram to educate the parent and answer questions.

“Points discussed during your first visit include; 1) how do I care for my child’s teeth? 2) What do I do when they’re teething? 3) What can I  give them when they are having discomfort? 4) How do I clean a toddler’s teeth? 5) What kind of toothpaste should I use? 6) What should I give them to drink? and 7) What should I avoid?”

Dr. Makram said education is a large part of pediatric dentistry, so much so that she and her staff have partnered with local preschools and elementary schools and visit to teach the youngsters how to take care of their teeth using storytime and puppets.

“We’ve partnered with many of our local schools here because it’s all about the education. We visit schools and talk about dental health and prevention. We adjust our presentation appropriately based upon the age of the children.”

Presentations have been so popular, and she has several students and even the teachers’ children as patients.

Dr. Makram’s goal is to help the children be proactive in their dental care from the earliest age.

“We want to make sure we have good habits and patterns from the very start, so we don’t see these young kids coming in with all these dental problems so early. Our main goal is prevention, preventative dentistry,” she explained. “On a social and psychological side, when you start regular dental visits at a young age, it becomes a very, very normal routine. A lot of positive reinforcement from the very beginning, rewards – stickers, toys, a fun game room – it just makes it such a pleasant experience from the start. That way, as they do get older, they don’t have that common fear of the dentist. We’re starting it off on a positive note and building that relationship with the child and the family. That allows getting to interact, to get to know the kids and the family. On the flip side, they get to know us and build trust in us, so future treatments and visits become second nature to them.”

Dr. Makram said that her team is specially trained to work with young children, and we’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. 

“We don’t push or force any treatment. We want the parents to be on board and comfortable with all facets of the treatment. Though a lot of pediatric offices don’t allow parents to come back, we invite parents in with us during the exam visit and treatment visits,” she said. “It’s a team approach with the parent, the assistant, and me, so we can safely examine the child. Ultimately the goal is the kids are getting the proper, safe care with the parent’s involvement.”

When asked what she enjoyed most about having her practice, she answered immediately.

“The kids! The smiles. The high-fives. That fearful kid that comes in and is worried and you’re able to turnaround the whole appointment, and he leaves here smiling, giving high-fives, getting a prize from the treasure box. That makes our day. It’s all about the kids, about making it a positive experience for them, making them feel comfortable, and making it so that they’re life-long awesome dental patients.” 

Pediatric Dentistry of Westchase is located at 13027 W Linebaugh Ave and is open Monday through Thursday. To schedule an appointment or to learn more about the Pediatric Dentistry of Westchase, call 813-854-5800 or visit www.westchasepedo.com. Online appointment scheduling is also available.