Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, April 23, 2021

Shah brings love of children’s dentistry back home

Dr. Neha Shah, founder of BEAM Pediatric Dental Studio, a boutique dental practice for children. - Photograph provided

Going to the dentist can be scary for both the child and the parent, Dr. Neha Shah says.

To eliminate as much of the stress associated with seeing a dentist as possible, Shah opened BEAM Pediatric Dental Studio, a boutique dental practice for children.

In addition to making her patients comfortable, she also aims to make them confident in their smiles, she adds.

Raised in Chattanooga, Shah graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in biomedical engineering and then completed the dental program at Harvard.

Following her passion for helping children, Shah then trained at Lurie’s Children’s Hospital in Chicago. She then returned home to Chattanooga to open BEAM.

BEAM’s services include preventive care, restorative care and hospital dentistry. Shah also offers concierge dentistry, if making a trip to the office is particularly unnerving for a child, as well as emergency dentistry for dental pain or sudden dental injury.

Here, Shah discusses her training, her passion for children’s dentistry and how she makes children smile when they’re in her chair.

What are your memories of going to the dentist growing up?

“I loved going to my dentist! Dr. Sidney Cox in East Brainerd is a great friend of my family. My mom always dressed us up and let my brother and I pick out treats to take to the staff. When I was old enough, I worked summers with Dr. Cox.’’

How did you become interested in dentistry?

“My interest started while I was working with Dr. Cox. I would help with front office filing, sterilization and other stuff here and there, but I loved spending my day with the staff. It made me feel grown up to have a job. I was 12 when I started working there, and I continued to work there when I was home from college during the summer.

“Dr. Cox was a big influence in my career choice and my decision to specialize in pediatrics. When I was in dental school, I knew pediatrics was where I belonged. My favorite clinical days at Harvard were when we rotated through Boston Children’s Hospital.’’

Were you ever interested in any other fields?

“Outside of dentistry, I’ve always been passionate about design and fashion. A career in that space was never in the cards for me, but you can see my passion in the attention to design throughout my office.’’

Where have you practiced besides BEAM?

“I practiced in Chicago and Nashville before returning to Chattanooga. Not too long after my family and I moved home, I started the process of opening BEAM Dental. It was challenging to do so during a pandemic but also exciting!’’

Why the focus on children at BEAM?

“Kids deserve to be treated the same, if not better, than adults. A lot of people think kids don’t understand what’s going on, but they’re more aware of their surroundings than most adults.

“I wanted to create an environment where kids receive open communication and transparency to make them feel more comfortable and to see everything was planned around their needs.’’

What else is unique about BEAM?

“When I decided to open BEAM, I knew I wasn’t going to skip a single detail; I wanted to make sure we had it all. So, we use state of the art equipment, including a top-of-the-line radiograph system, the newest and quietest handpieces, the best dental chairs and the highest quality dental materials for fillings and root canals. If I couldn’t find an option that met my standards, my contractor and designers and I custom-designed it.’’

What are children’s biggest fears about going to the dentist, and how do you address them?

“Most kids aren’t as lucky as my brother and I were with our family friend as our dentist, so it can be a scary place to come. The noises, the vulnerability of lying down in a chair and being unable to see what someone is doing can be terrifying.

“At BEAM, I wanted to create a space that replaced those “scaries” with something familiar and safe. We have the latest equipment, which means quieter tools. We also have TVs on the ceiling so kids can pick what they want to watch. Now lying in the chair means relaxation and TV time.

“Also, my staff and I are trained to show the kiddos exactly what we are doing before we start doing it. For example, if I show them my spinning toothbrush and say I’m brushing only one tooth, I then brush one and stop so they know they can trust me and that being at the dentist isn’t scary.

“I think it’s about gaining their trust. I love having a child who’s nervous when they walk in but walks out with a huge smile on their face.’’

What are parents’ biggest concerns about taking their children to the dentist, and how do you address those?

“As a parent myself, I believe the biggest concern comes from not knowing what’s happening to your child. Sometimes, kids get really worked up just walking to the back without a parent or loved one with them.

“That’s why we let the parents come back if they like. Often, the child feels more at ease with the parents present, and at the same time, the parents feel better knowing what’s happening to their child. The child might still cry a bit, but at least the parent knows what’s going on.

“It’s also scary to hear your child has cavities. We sit down with parents and show them pictures or X-rays to explain the cavities and all the options we have to fix them. Giving parents all the information on the topic can help alleviate their concerns and enable them to make a better decision for their child.’’

Why is going to the dentist regularly at a young age important?

“Although baby teeth fall out, they stay in the mouth for quite some time. Some baby teeth are in the mouth for 11 or 12 years, so it’s important to take care of those teeth, not only to prevent infections that can spread but also to instill lifelong habits for good oral hygiene when the permanent teeth come in.

“Also, cavities in baby teeth can cause severe pain in kids, which can lead to loss of appetite and proper nutrition. This can also disrupt their daily activities, like focusing on school or playing their favorite game or sport.’’

Finally, discuss your COVID protocols.

“We follow strict protocols for COVID. We book one family at a time so the office is almost like a private treatment area. We also book each patient with 25% more time than required to allow us to sanitize the lobby and all dental equipment prior to the next family arriving.

“We also have the newest technology in instrument sterilization and require COVID checks – including a questionnaire and temperature check – before every visit. The staff also has their temperature checked daily and wear N95 masks and gowns to cover all clothing. We’re also fortunate enough to have our staff fully vaccinated.’’

Information and appointments: www.beampediatricdentalstudio.com, @beamdentalchattanooga.