Dr. Jodi Braid’s dental office is unlike most others. Pictures and drawings colored by her patients line practically every square inch of wall space in the hallways and procedure rooms. The waiting area features as many child-sized chairs as it does places for adults to sit. Toys line shelves in the waiting room and behind the office counter. Yes, Dr. Braid’s office is different than most dentists, but so are her patients. All of her clients — as well as those of Dr. Amy Wyatt who also practices at Dental Care for Kids — are children.
Braid says taking care of children’s dental needs is exactly what she’s always wanted to do, and as the area’s only pediatric dentist, she is fulfilling that lifelong dream. Her Marion practice is about to celebrate its 11th anniversary.
“True story, I just always said I was going to be a dentist,” Braid, a Ridgway native, said. “I was sort of this awkward little kid, but my grandma always said I had beautiful teeth.”
Braid said she never wavered from the desire to be a dentist. Now one of fewer than 5,000 practicing pediatric dentists in the country, she combines that longtime desire with an affinity she has always had for children.
“I grew up in a big extended family and I was always the one who just kind of took care of the other little kids when the adults played cards or did something else and I always enjoyed it,” she added. “I guess I was just always called to do this.”
With a focus on children up through adolescents, Braid said Dental Care for Kids is as much about prevention and the development of good dental care routines.
“We try really hard to focus on education and bringing awareness to that things that contribute to cavities and some of the habits we would like to change,” she explained. “Nearly 60% of kids have cavities by the time they start kindergarten.”
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She said that food choices can play a big role in children’s dental health.
“We just have high-sugar diets and we are a convenience society. We’re going through fast food restaurants and we’re getting the kids sodas because that’s often just what comes with the meal.” She continued, “Breakfast is an easy example. We’re looking for something quick or on the go, so kids are getting their own high-sugar cereal or they’re grabbing a pre-packaged pastry or something like that. We try to do the education, but it’s tough and we realize things are tough for families that are busy in all sorts of ways.”
Braid added that even choices that seem healthier sometimes are not.
“Sometimes parents will say, ‘I’m doing something great for my kiddos — I’m giving them gummy vitamins,’ but they don’t realize that gummy vitamins can cause cavities. Or there are times that I hear parents say they don’t give kids soda. Instead they give sport drinks because it’s healthy. My response is that Gatorade, for example, dissolves teeth 12 times faster than sweet tea.”
When education is not enough, and treatment is necessary Braid said that she and Dr. Wyatt try to make their young clients comfortable. The practice offers nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, which allows children to remain conscious and responsive during treatment while reducing the nervousness and worry that comes with dental work. Other patients receive oral sedation prior to procedures. Baird says Dental Care for Kids is the only dental practice in the area offering this service.
She also said relating to patients is key.
“I certainly try to spend some time trying to get on the same level with the kids,” she said. “I know I can get any kid through anything as long as they are willing to communicate with me and trust me. One of my goals is to make kids comfortable. We can talk through things and help them with the things they are scared about. I let them know we are going to just do one easy thing after another until we’re done.”