Career Compass

Q&A: Treating pediatric patients

Dr. Emily Hahn attended Marquette University in Milwaukee for both her undergraduate and dental school education, earning her DDS in 2012. During two years of pediatric training at Lutheran Medical Center, she also earned a certificate in leadership education in neurodevelopmental and related disabilities. In 2014, she began providing dental care for medically complex children at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Here, Dr. Hahn discusses her unique pediatric practice as well as her advice for students interested in treating this population.

ASDA Blog: Tell us about your practice.

Dr. Emily Hahn: I own Skyview Pediatric Dentistry, which is located within a children’s hospital specialty center. I began my relationship with St. Louis Children’s Hospital as a pediatric dentist in their clinic, where I only see medically complex kids who are followed by the hospital.

How is your practice different, considering it is based in a hospital setting?

Honestly, not all that different. My best asset is access to medical records. Just like everyone else, though, I need to get on the phone and have conversations with their physicians to build those relationships. They love talking to us.

What do you recommend to make dental work easier and less stressful for patients with special needs?

First, be patient with rescheduling and scheduling. I would always allow more time, as the families likely have high medical IQs and may ask more in-depth questions.

Have the family work with you. I do many exams with the patient in their wheelchair. Ask the families if they like music.

Start the conversation with [a question like], “Are you able to clean the teeth at home?” Never shame a family for poor oral care, as they have a lot of huge fish to fry.

Remember: Treat the person, not the mouth!

Do you have any stories or memories from your time in dentistry that stand out for you?

Every day. I have the most rewarding job ever. By putting my neck out there to see the kids others are scared to touch, I know I leave a lasting effect. At a friend’s wedding, a mom of one of my complex patients was working as a waitress. She immediately put the tray down and gave me the biggest hug since her daughter’s teeth weren’t hurting anymore. It’s the best.

What advice do you have for dental students who hope to treat patients (pediatric or adult) with special health care needs in the future?

Get your feet wet and start serving the population stat. We need you. Dentistry is the number one unmet health care need of these patients. It may not be the most profitable thing you do, but it will be the most rewarding. I guarantee it.

Want to learn more about treating pediatric patients? Read “Treating pediatric patients with special health care needs” in the October issue of Contour magazine.

~Brianne Schmiegelow, Missouri-Kansas City ’21, ASDA Contributing Editor

Brianne Schmiegelow

Brianne Schmiegelow is a fourth-year student at the UMKC School of Dentistry from Lockwood, Missouri. Her favorite part of dental school has been meeting patients and giving them a chance to have a healthier smile.

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