It’s been a handful of months since we last had a conversation with Dr. Brea. But you may have seen her out and about interacting with many families in the community since then! She’s been making the rounds throughout North County delighting her gatherings with family fun ‘Tooth Talks’ featuring a tooth fairy, musical entertainment, fun kid sing-a-longs and dental care presentations. Parents walk away from the events with easy-to-follow tips and instruction for both kids and adults about oral health. Today, I’m checking back in with Dr. Brea to find out more about her practice with offices in Solana Beach and Carlsbad.
María: In what ways would you describe Great Smiles as being unique among its peers in children’s dentistry?
Dr. Brea: We go the extra step to make every family feel like a VIP. We listen to the concerns of the parent and patient and tailor each visit to their unique needs. I am board certified by the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry, and I stay up to date on the most recent research so that I can provide the highest standard of care to my patients.
María: At what age do most children have their first dental visit?
Dr. Brea: Age 1 or 6 months after their first tooth erupts. This is to provide early education to help avoid dental problems! Dental caries is the most common chronic childhood disease, and it is largely preventable by early education and detection!
María: Are most children apprehensive about their first-time experience at the dentist?
Dr. Brea: Yes, definitely.
María: How do you put toddlers at ease?
Dr. Brea: Every infant/toddler/child is different and so I ask the parent how things go at home and how they react in certain situations. I ask a lot of questions before the exam to learn about the family and patient and then I use things that they are familiar with and make them feel safe or happy to make them feel more comfortable in our office. Sometimes they still cry, as at early ages they are precooperative, however, afterwards we always give praise and positive reinforcement with a prize. Usually by the second or third visit, it is a lot easier if they were apprehensive at first. Also, we ask when parents schedule the first appointment if there is anything we can do to make the first visit better and offer tips for how to prepare them for the visit at home.
María: What suggestions do you give first-time parents about teething and dental care for infants and toddlers?
Dr. Brea: To start wiping the gums from birth! Establishing early routines is critical! By doing this before the first tooth erupts, it makes it easier to start brushing the teeth if they are already accustomed to having this oral stimulation by wiping the gums. Laying them down to brush the teeth is also helpful as it is more supportive and provides better access to remove the plaque effectively. Positive reinforcement after brushing is also important, reading a favorite story or a sticker afterwards.
As a pediatric dentist, I have training in managing children with special needs and our staff do as well… My residency program was 80% special needs children.
María: How does your practice accommodate children with special needs?
Dr. Brea: As a pediatric dentist, I have training in managing children with special needs and our staff do as well. Again, each child is different so a detailed history before the exam starts is key. My residency program was 80% special needs children.
María: How often should parents get their children’s teeth cleaned?
Dr. Brea: Every child is different, some may only need wellness visits once a year, others six months, others 3 months. It depends on their caries risk factors and gingival health factors.
María: How do the pediatric dentistry and orthodontic arms of your practice work together to serve your patients?
Dr. Brea: Well, every child by age 7 or 8 should be evaluated for the need for an orthodontic visit. There are certain occlusions and growth patterns that benefit from an early phase of orthodontic treatment. It is great because if I see something during a child’s visit, often I can have one of my orthodontic partners come over and see and meet the child and family right there. It makes things so seamless and easy for the families to have everything in the same practice.
María: What’s the best age for parents to consider getting braces for their kids?
Dr. Brea: Every child is different in this respect as well. Some may benefit early on in elementary school, around age 7 or 8, others are best to wait until all the adult teeth are present, around age 12 to 14. There are certain growth patterns and occlusions that dictate which timeline is best.
María: I know you extend yourself to the community to provide information about kids’ oral care. Please describe the ways you interact with the public to accomplish that mission including your “Tooth Talk” workshops. Where do you offer them and how often do you host them?
Dr. Brea: I do yearly preschool and elementary school visits (I have a poster and happy/sad teeth and stories to read and brushing activities). I do 1-2x year library visits for story times and education on brushing and flossing. I also do about 4 times a year parent tooth talk workshops at Fletcher Cove. We also sponsor local schools in their fundraisers. We also participate in community events like Fiesta Del Sol.
María: Tell us about the monthly gift baskets you give, as you mentioned, “to show appreciation for the families in our practice.” What’s included in one of the mighty baskets?
Dr. Brea: It’s different every month. For example one month the basket contents might be a family game, Godiva hot cocoa trio, Liz cocoa bombs, an electric toothbrush, toothpaste, floss. The next month families might find an atomic fidget ball, $50 Amazon gift card, notepad, nail file, toothpaste, flossers, hello floss, and a smart manual kids toothbrush.
María: Who is the lucky recipient?
Dr. Brea: It is a random drawing that usually includes an activity like writing their new year’s resolution, what they are thankful for, or answering a tooth trivia question. The responses get them entered to be in the random drawing at the end of the month.
It’s obvious that a focus on family is important to you whether a family in your practice or your very own.
María: Tell us, how do you juggle motherhood, family life and running a successful dental practice?
Dr. Brea: I get up very early! Ha ha. I work on time management and decluttering my calendar and prioritizing. One of my strong points is determination and organization! I have lots of notes documents on my goals/growth/mission in my personal life and professional life that I review regularly and put it into action.
María: What advice would you give a new mom as she returns to her professional life after having a child?
Dr. Brea: Be kind to yourself and do your best. Accept what each day brings and enjoy every precious moment with your new infant! Have goals and a personal and professional mission statement that you visit each day and then make small simple steps towards achieving it.
María: What are some of your interests outside of dental care for children?
Dr. Brea: I love to run and exercise! I love to be outside and enjoy the beauty of San Diego. The beach is my sanctuary. I watch my boys (husband and son) surf every weekend after my long run! I love to travel with my family and experience other cultures. And, we love to play games (Rumikub and Sorry are among some of our favorites!).
Dr. Brea: Now that I am older and have the end goal of running until I am 100, I only run 4 days a week. During the week usually 6 miles and on the weekends 15-20 miles.
María: How do you train for a marathon?
Dr. Brea: I have an 18-week training program that I love and have stuck to and a personal trainer that helped me when I was running competitively. Now, I just run for the pure joy of it and speed isn’t a concern anymore.
María: Finally, Is there any advice you received in dental school that serves you well today?
Dr. Brea: Not from dental school that I can remember, but from my parents and my mentors, to always be true to myself, to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do and not for what you may get out of it, have kindness and tolerance for myself and others.