Pediatric Dentistry

The Division of Dentistry at Nationwide Children's is dedicated to providing comprehensive and therapeutic oral health care for pediatric patients from infancy through adolescence. From managing children with special oral health needs to working as part of a broader health care team to provide specialized care for patients with complex behavioral, social and medical conditions, our expertise and research improves outcomes for our patients.

In addition to routine dental treatment, our services include urgent care for symptomatic orodental conditions such as traumatic injuries to the dentoalveolar complex, tooth-related infections and painful oral lesions. Our dentists and other specialists also diagnose and manage lesions and disorders of the oral mucosa, teeth and jaws, along with a wide variety of other conditions. Besides pediatric dentists, experts in the fields of oral and maxillofacial pathology, orthodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery, endodontics and public health provide a level of care for medically complex children that sets the standard nationally. In order to help the child through the dental procedures and ensure the best outcomes, we use a variety of behavior guidance techniques ranging from positive reinforcement and storytelling to sedative medications and general anesthesia. Our goal is to treat every child safely, comfortably and with compassion, using age-appropriate methods.

We have the expertise to impact the oral and overall health of children with a wide variety of dental and oral concerns. It is the interprofessional and collaborative approach to caring for the whole child through the findings in the mouth that makes our team so valuable.
Catherine Flaitz, DDS, MS
Divison Chief of Dentistry

By partnering with researchers across the hospital — especially in The Research Institute — and at The Ohio State University, dentists at Nationwide Children's are improving outcomes for patients everywhere. As leaders in the field of regenerative endodontics, the dental trauma team is helping more children save their permanent teeth after accidents or injuries. Additionally, our dentists are studying the development of the microbiome in children. By understanding the impact of the oral microbiome on the overall health and development of children, we can develop interventions to prepare children for a lifetime of health and wellness.

Our Pediatric Dentistry Residency Program, in partnership with The Ohio State University College of Dentistry and directed by Homa Amini, DDS, MPH, MS, attracts more than 200 applicants every year. It is this strong relationship with a highly respected dental school and the solid commitment of Nationwide Children’s to improve oral health outcomes in the community that sets us apart from other hospital programs. The faculty provide an excellent balance between didactic knowledge and clinical experience in all areas of pediatric dentistry. It is one of only a few pediatric dentistry programs in the United States that require the completion of scholarly activities and research, leading to a Master of Science degree from The Ohio State University. Residents also receive extensive clinical training in handling traumatic injuries to the teeth and jaws of children.

In 2017, the new dental clinic at the Livingston Ambulatory Center will open, providing a significant increase in treatment space, specially designed operating rooms, new imaging equipment and opportunities for greater community outreach and clinical research.

37,927 Clinic visits in 2015
4,908 Surgical cases in 2015
1 Fellowship/ residency programs
9 Number of surgical faculty
Saving Konner’s Tooth

After standing a little too close to his younger sister as she swung a golf club, Konner fell to the ground, his mouth bleeding. The club knocked out three baby teeth, cut his lip and injured one front permanent tooth that later became infected.

The hour-long drive to Nationwide Children’s that day would be one of a series Konner and his mother would take over the next several months as dentists tried to realign Konner’s teeth.

Even more challenging was the attempt to save Konner’s permanent tooth. He was 7 years old at the time. His permanent teeth were still solidifying and the roots were growing into the bone holding the teeth in the jaws. This made that injured permanent tooth susceptible to infection, and infection hindered the roots from growing stronger.

Initially, dentists at Nationwide Children’s thought they would have to pull out the tooth and replace it with a false one, an option Konner’s mother, Kelli, dreaded.

“I was petrified of him losing his tooth,” says Kelli. “I paced and paced. I must have walked 100 miles in that hospital.”

Over several months, Nationwide Children’s Dental Trauma Team succeeded in saving the tooth. They used regenerative endodontics, a type of tissue engineering that involves stimulating the patient’s own stem cells to change into tissues needed in the patient’s body.

Tissue Engineering in Dentistry

Tissue engineering is making waves in medical care. Physician-scientists can now modulate patients’ circulating postnatal stem cells to differentiate into tissues needed to sustain or improve patients’ lives.

The application to dentistry – regenerative endodontics – enables dentists to save teeth that normally would be considered lost cause cases. The Division of Dentistry at Nationwide Children’s is at the forefront of saving these lost-cause permanent teeth in injured children.

We have completed more than 90 regenerative endodontic cases and published the largest case series reported in the pediatric literature. Kids like Konner are keeping their teeth and experiencing better outcomes because of the regenerative work we are doing here.
Dennis McTigue, DDS
Leader of the Dental Trauma Team

Many parents like Konner’s, who initially worried about the prospect of false teeth for their children, are heartened to know those teeth can be saved.

Konner is 17 now. If the light hits his front tooth at just the right angle when he smiles, a slight discoloration is noticeable. But he and his mother don’t mind. They’re just glad the tooth is his own.

Investigating the Oral Microbiome

Microbiome research is providing clues to physicians and scientists about how the multitude of microorganisms that live symbiotically in and on the human body influences general health. In her research into the oral microbiome, Ann Griffen, DDS, MS, dentist at Nationwide Children’s and professor of Pediatric Dentistry at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry, is leading a team of dentists and research scientists to discover how the oral microbiome is acquired in children.

“In my lab, we develop techniques for looking at microbiomes and apply those techniques in clinical studies,” she explains.

Using DNA sequencing technology, Dr. Griffen and her team compare children’s microbiomes with numerous other variables, including general health, oral health and age. In a recently completed study, Dr. Griffen and her colleagues followed babies throughout the first year of their lives.

“Our study, which is being prepared for publication, showed that the oral microbiome develops in a more controlled and common pattern than do other microbiomes, such as the gut,” says Dr. Griffen. “This is surprising when you consider how open the mouth is to the rest of the world.”

“Babies put everything in their mouths,” she elaborates. “Sometimes they lick the floor! We didn’t expect to find such a common and limited microbiome.”

In a current study, the team is following children over the course of five years, with overlapping age cohorts to reconstruct the progressive development of the oral microbiome in two longitudinal studies. Participants come every six months to the Dental Clinic at Nationwide Children's, where the research hygienist collects information about oral and general health and samples the microbiome.

“Ultimately, our goal is to promote healthy microbiomes in children,” says Dr. Griffen. “The more we understand how the microbiome develops, what can go right and what can go wrong, the more likely that we can offer advice and interventions to support oral health in children through microbiome health.”

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