Board certified pediatric dentist says prevention is key to healthy teeth

Published in the April 16-29, 2014 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Staff Report


Yahya Radwan

Yahya Radwan seemed like he was on the way to an engineering career like many of his family members when, while studying engineering at San Jose State University, he came upon a dental group mental and was intrigued. He had worked in a Silicon Valley cubicle making semiconductors and he realized it was not for him.

In 1998, he enrolled in the New York University dental program, accepting a military scholarship to pay for expenses in exchange for a stint as a U.S. Army dentist. Sept. 11, 2001, he and his classmates watched in horror from the dental school windows as the World Trade Center fell. Later, the Army sent him to Iraq with one of the first dental units in the combat zone. Morgan Hill Life recently asked Radwan about his career choice of dental care for children.

How did you get started in a career as a dentist working with children?

Yahya Radwan working on  an Iraqi child's teeth

Yahya Radwan working on an Iraqi child’s teeth

I disliked pediatric dentistry as a dental student. I felt it was adult dentistry on smaller mouths. Then, when I graduated, I was a general dentist in the U.S. Army. I enjoyed it, but I realized my heart wasn’t in it.

During my deployment to Iraq, I got a chance to treat Iraqi kids. That was the seed. After I returned from Iraq, I started working with a talented pediatric dentist. She showed me what the (pediatric dentistry) profession really is all about. After that, I applied to residency.

What is a board certified pediatric dentist and why are you different than other pediatric dentists?

There are three levels of dentists who see children. The first is a general dentist who sees adults and children. The second is a pediatric dentist, who finished a residency in pediatric dentistry. Not all pediatric dentists are board certified. The third level is a pediatric dentist who, after residency, takes the extra step and takes the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry board exam. It’s a two-day oral examination that is administered by other pediatric dentists to ensure an excellent understanding of the most up-to-date concepts, techniques and research that are applicable to the profession. You also have to regularly return and get re-examined to keep the board certified status.

Getting dental care can be scary for a lot of children. How do you help your young patients relax and feel comfortable while you work on their teeth?

There are a lot of ways we can help a child get comfortable. Humor, distraction, connecting with a child — that’s the simple answer. Also, it’s important to be genuine. If you’re genuine that you want to help, children feel that. We also explain everything. If children know what’s happening, they are usually less apprehensive.  Children don’t like the unknown. We’re also quick. One of the benefits of being a specialist is that you do the same thing over and over again. That means you do it well and you do it fast. A four-year old’s attention span is that of a four-year old. If she gives you her trust, you don’t overstay your welcome.

Why are you so passionate about helping youngsters with their oral care and dental treatment?

I see too much decay and, as a result, too much discomfort. Prevention is a big deal. If I can step in and prevent a level of decay that will make a difference later on, I feel very satisfied by that.

What are some basic tips that parents should know to help their children take care of their teeth?

Don’t let kids go to bed without brushing, especially young ones still taking a bottle. The nighttime brushing is the most important time. Frequency of snacking is also as much a factor as the type of snack that the child eats. The way you brush is just as important as how long you brush. If you have quality brushing that removes plaque, then you are setting your child up for success no matter how long you brush.