Not many people are fans of going to the dentist’s office, most especially kids! So how do you overcome this challenge and help your kids love their teeth and their dentist as well? In this episode, Richard Marn, MD, interviews Pediatric Dentist, Jessica Marn, DDS, to get the answers to these important questions. Dr. Marn takes us inside the lives of pediatric dentists, the work they do not only with kids but also with their parents, and the misconceptions people often have about this career. Talking to those interested in taking this profession, she then shares her recommendations on how best to succeed as students in the field and what the field of pediatric dentistry will look like in the future.
Listen to the podcast here
Helping Kids Love Their Teeth And Their Dentist! With Pediatric Dentist
Pediatric Dentist/Writer/Wife – Jessica Marn, DDS
My guest is the one and only, Jessica Marn.
It’s a lot of pressure right there with that introduction. How are you?
My wife is going to close out in 2020. She is going to talk about her profession. What is your bio in chronological order as if you’re in an elevator?
I went to an all-girl Catholic high school. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do so I went to an associate college, New York City Tech. I was enrolled in the dental hygiene program then I took Anthropology 101 and became very fascinated with anthropology. I decided to leave New York City Tech and the profession of hygiene and decided I was going to be an anthropologist. There, I was very intrigued by anthropology but my dad was like, “This is great in stock but you have to figure out what you want to do career-wise.” I was on track to get a PhD in Anthropology but all of a sudden, I got into dental school. I went to NYU Dental School. From dental school, I thought I wanted to become an endodontist, which is a root canal specialist. I took a deep breath and decided that was not for me then I went into pediatrics.
Pediatric dentistry, correct?
How long now have you been practicing as a pediatric dentist?
I graduated in 2005.
Tell me what a pediatric dentist does.
Pediatric dentists monitor the growth and development of teeth and also the structure of your oral cavity. We start that from six months all the way up to teenagers and make the proper referral along the way.
Isn’t that too young for someone to go see a dentist when they’re six months old?
What we do is we educate parents and we try to implement a lot of good oral hygiene and habits since they’re little. As I tell our kids, habits are formed whether it’s good or bad habits when you’re young. At least I see these kids when they’re young and once they can understand, I can talk about what they’d be eating, not eating and how they can better take care of their teeth so they can avoid getting a cavity.
What type of patients do you work with and how exactly do you help them?Taking out the teeth prematurely can also mess up the growth of the subsequent teeth coming in. Click To Tweet
Kids from six months to late teens. Not only do I clean their teeth but we go into the importance of hygiene. Let’s say the kid is able to sit through X-rays, we go and take a look but I do have a handful of parents that says, “I don’t think that we should be taking X-rays because the kids are too young.” I will be honest with you, a lot of times, when the parents give me a go-ahead to take the X-ray which is around 6 or 7 years old, I find multiple cavities already because you can’t see some of these cavities with our naked eye. The only way you can see these things is by imaging. It’s like anything else, risk versus the benefit. We don’t take unnecessary X-rays but you cannot do a full thorough exam without that tool that is needed.
Tell me what your typical day is like.
My typical day depends because I’m in two different offices. One, I start from 9:00 to 5:00 and the other, I start from 10:00 to 6:00. Usually, we try to see the younger kids early in the morning because they’re fresher like myself and then the older kids in the afternoon, only because we’re gauging on the attention span or making sure that we’re not dealing with a very tired one-year-old at 4:00, 2:00 or when they miss their nap.
Is a pediatric dentist only working in an office?
A pediatric dentist doesn’t just work in an office. We can go to the hospital to do OR cases which is general anesthesia in the operating room. I have colleagues who are directors. They have both private practices like myself but they’re also half-time in the hospital teaching residents. Some of my colleagues are hospital-based or they do 50/50 where they teach residents. I have some colleagues that are doing research that doesn’t want to see patients anymore. They’re finding the newest materials or the latest and the greatest of stuff that is out there.
Jess, you mentioned before hospital-based dentistry versus office-based dentistry. How is that different?
Office-based dentistry doesn’t have students with you because that’s your private practice versus the hospital where a lot of times, you have a resident, which is a student that you’re teaching. You still see patients there but you have a student that is observing you or you’re teaching the whole time that you’re in the hospital. I used to do that before in my earlier part of my career and I decided that I was going to be in private practice the entire time now.
What are you doing? Are the patients different in the hospital? Are you doing different procedures in a hospital versus private practice? Besides having a resident, how has that much different?
The procedures are not any different on how we would treat the patients. It’s the environment is a little bit more different.
We would send a more compromised patient to the hospital. When the patient comes in and they are immunocompromised or they had a heart issue, liver issue, kidney issue or asthma and they feel that I’m not able to take care of them in an office setting, I will refer them to a hospital. It’s because I know that there’s a multi-disciplinary specialist that is in the hospital that they can work together. It’s not that we couldn’t do it in private practice but it’s not as tangible. In the hospital, everybody is there in the same house so you just have to make a phone call. Let’s say you need clearance for something, you wanted to update them and you wanted to ask them about the patient. Let’s say a kid came in and had a heart issue or lung issue, I could call up whether the cardiologist or the pulmonologist because we’re in the same system versus where I am in private practice, it might be a little bit more difficult.
You’re saying that you can get much more challenging patients and cases in the hospital setting.
Ye because a lot of the private practitioner refers to the hospital.
Earlier you talked about misconceptions in your career and you highlighted that there’s a lot of general dentists that perceive pediatric dentistry as something that almost anybody can do. What do you mean by that?
The misconception is that, “These are baby teeth. They’ll eventually fall out.” I can’t stand when people tell me that because what you’re not putting into their mind is the fact that the kid is going to be in pain. I don’t care if the teeth are going to “fall out” because these are milk teeth. It’s the fact that the kid is in pain.
What do you mean by pain? From what?
From cavity. I have a lot of people that say, “We went to see a dentist.” I’m like, “What kind of dentist?” Normally, in my profession or pediatric dentist, we will not say, “Let the cavity sit there and let it fall out.” Majority of the time, what we will do is we will assess the problem and treat it because we know that the child is in pain and the teeth are not just going to fall out because the way teeth comes out at a certain age, they fall out at a certain age. Let’s say you have a child who is four years old and one of their molars will be going to fall out between the age of 8 to 12, that’s four years of that tooth getting bombed out and also the kid is suffering from pain.
It’s important that their pain has to be considered. When you take out the teeth prematurely or extracted, it can also mess up the growth of the subsequent teeth coming in too.
The baby teeth are used as a guide for the adult teeth to come in. The adult teeth do not have what we call a “signal.” When the baby tooth is taken out prematurely, the adult tooth does not know when to come out because you screw up the eruption.
How you take care of the teeth and preserve them has a real impact on the development of their face for the future.
It’s also hygiene in general. I do have a lot of kids that don’t like to brush and the parents are like, “It’s not that important,” but I see tons of plaque but also gingivitis. These are inflammations of the gums and there are tons of studies that are out there and more on developing about gingivitis and how it causes a lot of other systemic issues. If I can get them in early, start teaching them and educating my patients about good oral hygiene and habits, I feel that I am helping them to better take care of not only their teeth and mouth but also self-care the whole body.
You mentioned this before, but again, what is the most rewarding part of your job?
There’s a lot of rewarding parts of my job. I remember when we were able to go back to work after the lockdown, I’m all geared up with my PPEs and I see my little patients. They don’t know anything about no hugging. You see all of them coming at me trying to hug me and I’m like, “We’re supposed to be doing this social distancing thing.” It was so great to see how my patients miss me. They don’t lie. They don’t sit there and try to be someone or something that they’re not but that’s genuine love. Those feelings are amazing.
When I get a drawing or when I get an email from a mom that tells me like, “After we saw you, our kids decided not to suck their thumbs anymore. The pacifier is gone or became a better brusher.” I can’t believe that just by teaching them or telling them something at such a young age that I could make such a significant difference in their habit and these are three-year-olds we’re talking about. I want to be that person. When they become parents, they’ll say, “I love my pediatric dentist because she was so wonderful.” That is the ultimate flattery in anybody’s profession. When you can make that a lifelong change in somebody or make such an impression on someone.
I could see how that would be very rewarding. How many patients do you see a day usually?
We could be anywhere from 10 to 15 patients. Sometimes, you have to remember we do have emergencies that we have to consider.
In general, how many patients do you see a day on average?It's important that the patient’s pain has to be considered. Click To Tweet
Anywhere from 10 to 15 patients.
Do you recommend this career to other students? If so, what type of students best succeed?
You’re talking to a person that loves her job. I love what I do. I don’t consider it a job. I consider it as a career. I wouldn’t go and recommend this career to someone who doesn’t love kids, first of all. Secondly, you should never do something for the money because if that’s your goal, you’re going to be very disappointed at how much time and effort you have to put in and the rate of return. If you’re kids who are looking for something, I would recommend those that love art because we work with our hands all the time. A lot of time, I kid around and I said, “I consider myself an artist because I do a handful of cases.”
Before, I did more on a lot of the full mouth we have where kids will come in. It’s like a house that’s broken down and you get to rebuild this beautiful smile for these kids. It was so rewarding. I have these parents that will not smile or open their mouth because they have cavities all over. I love those cases because I see it as a challenge but also as such a reward for me to give something to this child. If you like to work with your hands, love kids or you’re social, it’s a profession for you. Half of the time, I’m doing a lot of talking and getting to know parents and patients.
What do you think the future outlook is like for your profession?
Pediatric dentistry is still going strong as long as there’s candy, chocolate or gummy bears, we’re good. Now we’re more focusing on our profession, which is great. It’s on prevention. For many years that I’ve been doing this, what I’ve seen in the past decade-plus is we’re moving more towards prevention which is great and that’s through education, awareness, parents knowing the importance of oral hygiene and what it does and also about nutrition. For us, as a profession, there’s going to be more towards prevention because now we have teledentistry. A lot of it is not only the phone but also through videos to assess the problem. We didn’t have that when I first came out of dental school, are you kidding me? Teledentistry became very popular during the pandemic.
How would you describe yourself as a student when you were in high school and college?
I always took the scenic route during school because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. That’s why I always say, “I’m not the one to judge anybody because I had five different careers that I wanted to do prior to getting into dental school.” As a student, I was all over the place because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Once I became focused, I knew that I had to do the best that I could because I was now considering going to a dental school. I buckled down from Bs to As because I knew that I had to study. I’ll be honest with you, in dental school, the first day, I did not do well. I thought I was going to flunk out because I have a degree in anthropology going into a very heavy base science program. Social sciences is social sciences, it’s anthropology but I had to kick butt, sit down, and study because I became focused on what I wanted to do plus I took out loans and I knew I had to find a way to pay all this money back. I knew I had to graduate from dental school.
Were you considering an anthropologist as a career?
Yes. I was going to go to Africa and do dig sites because I was going to become a paleontologist. That’s what I wanted to do. Before that, I was going to be a dental hygienist. I also thought about paralegal, pharmacist and even a lawyer.
What made you change your direction in mind? What happened?
I had a couple of cousins that were dentists already. I also had an anthropology professor who is a paleontologist. He’s a very famous paleontologist. He was 1 of 3 that could go into dig sites. I was doing externships for him and he asked me what I was doing. I said, “I’m supposed to be taking this thing called the DAT for the dental schools.” He said, “Of any of the artifacts that we find in Africa, we always find teeth. You should go to dental school and then when you finished dental school, you can come back and we could collaborate and do something together anthropology/dentistry base.” What ended up happening to him? He ended up getting grants for NYU. Dr. Bromage is doing very well now.
What was the decision-making process of why you chose dentistry over those other options?
There was something in me that I wanted to be called a doctor even though being an anthropologist because of the PhD route. I said that I was thinking of becoming anthropology, teaching and getting a PhD but also there was something intriguing about dentistry because it was an art form to it where we get to work with our hands. It’s not like you’re just sitting on your desk the whole day. You get to go and do stuff. I like to work with my hands. I believe that dentistry is very much art-based. That was one of the reasons why. It’s also the fact that I saw my cousins and how they were practicing.
I shadowed them. That’s important. For any students that are out there, don’t blindly go into what you think you want to do. Go and see if you can shadow and take a look at what it is on the day-to-day grind. Not listening to me talk but rather go and take a look. I’m going to tell you and this is on a side note. It’s like our kids. They came into my office, they took a look at what I did, they came in on a Saturday when I used to work on Saturdays, and they come in or when they had school off. They told me, “Mom, this is for you, it’s not for me.” Both kids told me that. That’s important. They can look at my life and say, “This is so grand.” Until you see it yourself and get to know what it is, that’s when you know. This is why we don’t push them because they already saw what I did. It’s not only one time. They used to come in religiously. As they get older, they said, “This is not what I want to do.”
Phil used to come and help out a little bit here and there.
Sam was my right-hand assistant. Me and her, we will go in. I would bribe her with so many different types of food or whatever little treats and stuff because she would love to get little trinkets when we were working. She also would love to give out all the gifts to the kids and stuff and the prizes but she realized that it wasn’t something that she wanted to do. It was the same for our son. He came with me a couple of times and he says, “I love the kids when they’re not crying. When the kids are crying, I can’t handle it.” At least they both saw and realized that this career that I have chosen for myself is not for them.
That’s what I would like to tell all the students that are out there. These blogs that you’re reading, there’s so many doctors, nurses, or techs that are on your show that are available via email, even if they wanted to do Zoom or talk to them, at least you have that. When we were growing up, we didn’t have that. We’re trying to have to figure that out ourselves. At least now, we know our kids don’t want to be dentists.
During the pandemic, we were shut down and holed up together but you did something as a pediatric dentist and many dentists are doing this. What did you do that educate the kids?
I decided to write a book.
What is the name of the book and who is it for?
The name of the book is Charlotte wants to be a… Pediatric Dentist. It’s on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
The Learning Elephant, a new website and company that you started. It’s also sold on that too.
The age is for 0 to 3.
Adults have read it and they’ve learned it as well. Even though it’s designed to be interactive with very young children, I would say even the 0 to 8, the adults that have read it have also learned about teeth as well. Why did you write the book, Jess?
Even in my day-to-day job, I feel like I am a teacher. I want to educate kids and make their visits to the dentist less fearful. That was what I was thinking.
Do you think the book that you wrote has done that?Pediatric dentistry is still going strong as long as there's candy, chocolate, and gummy bears. Click To Tweet
I do have parents that have emailed me and said, “This is such a cute book.” My personality shines through in that book. I don’t know if that’s an insult or what because they’re O to 3. If you’re looking for something that is more thought-provoking, this is not it.
You can learn from it. Different books have different goals and your book is to help educate. Where can people get this book and check it out.
They can get it from Amazon, Target is one of the other places, and Barnes & Noble. It’s very cute. That’s how you know you made it when you type in Charlotte Wants to A… Pediatric Dentist and there’s a little Wikipedia about you. Whether it’s true or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s not important.
Let’s move on to my last section here. The rapid-fire questions. If you could sing one song on American Idol, what would it be?
Lovely Day by Bill Withers.
What cheers you up besides seeing me every day in the morning and night?
There’s a lot of things that cheers me up. I would say my daily meditation. That cheers me up morning and night.
Most important in a partner, intelligent or funny? I know it’s hard because I’m both but what is the preference?
I would say funny. There’s only so much intelligence without funny.
If you could ask your pet two questions, what would they be?
Who do you love more, dad or mom?
You could ask another question.
Sam or Sophia?
How many days do you wear the same pants in a row before it becomes a problem?
That’s never an issue. It’s one day. The next day it goes into the wash.
If you could choose your own nickname, what would it be?
If you could get a yacht, what would you call it?
The Learning Elephant.
There’s a spider in your house, do you kill it or set it free?
I set it free.
Finally, if you were stranded on a tropical island, what two things would you want with you?
I would like a couple of good books and sunscreen to make sure I don’t get burned.
Thanks, my dearest, bestest, friendest, wifest of all time and beautiful as ever. Thanks for joining me on this session, Jess. This ends 2020 and I’m looking forward to an awesome 2021 and a fresh start. Thanks for joining.
No problem. Thank you for having me.
That’s our show. Thanks for reading. To learn more about nowadays guests or other past guests, check out my website, HealthCareersWithDrMarn.com or HCWithDrMarn.com. If you like what you read in this blog, then go to my website, add your name and email to my email list. That way you can get the latest announcements and news as they arise. You can also find me on Instagram, @DrRichardMarn. Thank you and I will catch you on the next episode.
- Jessica Marn
- Charlotte wants to be a… Pediatric Dentist
- The Learning Elephant
- Target – Charlotte wants to be a… Pediatric Dentist
- Barnes & Noble – Charlotte wants to be a… Pediatric Dentist
- @DrRichardMarn – Instagram
About Dr. Jessica Marn
While earning her D.D.S. Degree at New York University School of Dentistry, Dr. Marn found her calling and passion for treating children, as well as Special Needs patients, when she provided dentistry and oral care advocacy for the Special Olympics and Episcopal Social Service in NYC. She then began her pediatric dental residency training at St. Barnabas Hospital (Bronx, NY), nationally recognized as one of the most arduous programs in the country.
Upon completion, she earned her board certification in pediatric dentistry and opened her 1st dental practice on Mott Street (Manhattan, NY), a special place in her heart where she spent much of her childhood visiting her grandmother, cousins, and friends.
Dr. Marn has been specifically practicing pediatric dentistry in New York since 2003. She is a Clinical Professor in Pediatric Dentistry at Mt. Sinai Hospital for more than 10 years and has been commended as a “Top Dentist” by the Consumer Research Council of America since 2008. Patients come to her as young as 6 months old through adolescence. Patients come to establish a dental home, get their 1st check-up, conduct a routine visits, and, if necessary, receive more advanced pediatric dental care and procedures.
Because Dr. Marn performed over 3,000 cases requiring nitrous oxide, intravenous sedation, or general anesthesia, she has developed a unique clinical expertise that few of her colleagues possess.
Dr. Marn is passionate about sharing the benefits of pediatric dental care with her community. She serves on the Early Head Start Health Advisory Committee and partners with Colgate, Oral B, Crest and Henry Schein to bring dental education and awareness to Head Start communities.
In her free time, Dr. Marn enjoys spending time with her husband, two children and their dog. She likes to volunteer at her children’s school, travel and spend time with family and friends. In addition, she has joined Cycle for Survival in their efforts to raise money for rare cancer research.
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