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Today's Family Magazine

Dental care for children

Dr. Laura Westover

By Deanna Adams

When it comes to the topic of dental care for their children, many parents are filled with questions about when, where, why, and how to begin. 

And the questions are valid.  After all, young children, preteens and teenagers have different needs than adults when it comes to dental growth and development. 

Then there’s the fear factor.  Many suffer from dentophobia—anxiety associated with seeing the dentist—even before their first visit!  So there are many advantages to taking your child to a pediatric dentist as opposed to a general practice dentist.  A pediatric dentist undergoes specialized training when it comes to dealing with children on a regular basis.

Dr. Laura Westover can address all of these concerns.  She has recently transitioned her dental practice to Mentor, Polar Pediatric Dental Care, which specializes in children’s dental needs and making a child feel comfortable from the first visit on. Westover received her DDS degree at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry, then her master of science degree and pediatric dentistry certificate from the University of Toledo Medical College.  In addition, she is a diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry and a member of the AAPD.

“I practiced pediatric dentistry in northwest Ohio for five years before moving to the Cleveland area in 2018,” she says.  “Cleveland and the Mentor community quickly became home!” 

Polar Pediatric Dental Care comes with a mascot: Molar the Polar Bear. After all, you have to make going to the dentist “fun.”  If the process is treated as an activity, chances are a child will continue the practice long into adulthood.  “Most of our patients’ families know us as “the polar bear place,” Westover adds.  “He will always be part of our growing and improving business.  I mean, who doesn’t love a cuddly furry friend?”

We asked Dr. Westover about the most frequent concerns regarding early dental care.

TF:  It’s well known that a pediatric dentist is better for a child than a general dentist, but why exactly?

Dr. Westover:  Pediatric dentists are uniquely qualified to treat children.  All pediatric dentists must complete at least two extra years of specialized training, such as child behavior, growth and development, beyond the four years of dental school, and some have an additional degree.  Pediatric dentists can offer more options when it comes to treating your child.  They are trained on how to help reduce child anxiety, and make appointments fun and engaging.  Getting this specialized care for your child often has no additional cost to you.  We participate with most dental insurance plans.

TF:  What is the earliest age a child should see a dentist? 

Dr. Westover:  The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a child’s first dental visit is by the first birthday.  While some children have few or no teeth at this time, it helps parents know how to best care for their child’s mouth and teeth, what products to use and when, and allow children to get used to coming to the dentist.

TF:  What age should a child transition to a general dentist? 

Dr. Westover:  It depends on the patient’s age and unique needs, but often occurs at age 17–18 years old.

TF:  How should a parent prepare their child for a first, and subsequent, dental visit?

Dr. Westover:  It depends on the child.  For some of the younger children, practicing at home is fun with pretend play.  For some of the older children, they do better with their parents telling them what to expect. The most important thing a parent can do to prepare for their child’s visit is to inform their pediatric dentist of what their child’s unique needs and expectations are.  This way our team can personalize the appointment and make it fun!

TF: What other things do you do to put children, and their parents, at ease? 

Dr. Westover:  We get to know the child and their family.  This helps us put together a specialized plan for care.  The team members at Polar Pediatric Dental Care are very friendly, welcoming, and understand that each child is different.  Our treatment team has a combined 50+ years of experience with just children, so we know how to cater to each child’s and families’ distinctive needs. 

Some of the ways we ease children’s worries is to tell patients what we are going to do, show them (so they can see there is nothing to be worried about), then proceed when they are ready.  Also, we offer nitrous oxide to help patient’s feel more relaxed.  Sometimes something as simple as having patients bring their own music to play helps.  Just ask us what we can do to help!

TF: Finally, what care should be taken at home to protect their teeth other than brushing two or three times a day? 

Dr. Westover:  There are all types of ways to care for your mouth and teeth!  Something as simple as wearing protective gear during sports or while playing outside can help protect your teeth from trauma.  Of course, diet is important too.  Limiting sugars in meals is very helpful. Also, looking in your child’s mouth while they brush can be quite important.  Notify your pediatric dentist if things don’t look quite right.  We are happy to help!

Polar Pediatric Dental Care is located at 8484 Market Street, Suite 2 in Mentor.  For more information, see  To schedule an appointment, phone (440) 266-1740.