Meet Dr. Derek Tom – Pediatric Dentist in Aiea
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I’ve wanted to be a dentist ever since I was a sophomore in high school and this profession has evolved into one of the greatest blessings of my life. Pediatric dentistry has given me the opportunity to meet so many wonderful, talented, and kind-hearted children. I’ve enjoyed seeing them grow up into resilient teenagers and for some, now see their children; it has made my job so rewarding.
My goal as a pediatric dentist is to give kids a chance to have a healthy smile and to get them to a general dentist in great oral health. It’s also very important for me to teach children and teenagers to cope with the anxiety that dentistry brings upon us. Teeth play such an important role in our lives, but it takes a lot of work to achieve a great smile.
I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, and I graduated from Punahou High School. I kept myself busy by playing 3 sports- football, basketball, and track. In search of a small college atmosphere where I could still play football and concentrate on academics, I ended up at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon and received my Bachelors of Science degree in biology. I was extremely fortunate to achieve 1st team All-State honors in football as a defensive back at Punahou, as well as All-American and Academic All-American honors as a cornerback at Lewis and Clark College. I will always be thankful for the experiences that I have received through athletics as the qualities and lessons learned have helped me become a better dentist and employer.
Following college, I was accepted into the University of Missouri Kansas City Dental School where I discovered that working with children was my passion, and this led me to specialize in pediatric dentistry. I completed my 2 year pediatric dental residency program at Louisiana State University in New Orleans which quickly became one of my favorite places! The culture, jazz, and food (especially the crawfish) were beyond amazing! I returned to Honolulu where I spent the first 3 years of my career as an associate and in 2005, I opened Aiea Pediatric Dental Center. I was determined to give the children of Hawaii the best dental care possible.
There are so many influential people that I will always be grateful for. I couldn’t feel more blessed to have such a wonderful wife who I consider my soulmate. She is so understanding of the time requirements and demands of my profession. We continue to learn from each other and grow together as a couple and as parents everyday. We have two amazing children, who we consider our pride and joy. I never knew how much love my heart could hold until becoming a dad. Being a parent has definitely helped me to become a better pediatric dentist. My siblings have also been a big part of my life and have taught me many lifelong lessons. We really don’t realize how much our parents love us until we have children of our own, so I can’t end this without acknowledging how thankful I am to have been brought up by a wonderful mother and father. They have given me so much love, guidance and support throughout the years and have been role models of faith and prayer, working hard, kindness, generosity, integrity, and always putting forth your best.
Meet the Team – Front Staff, Dental Assistants, Hygienist
I am very proud to introduce our staff at Aiea Pediatric Dental Center.
We have an extremely hard working front staff that has an extremely difficult job of handling the high volume of patients we see on a daily basis. However, they are always professional and willing to accommodate you the best that they can. Our front staff employees take a lot of pride in what they do and that is what makes this group special.
A good pediatric dental hygienist is hard to find because it requires patience and having a particular personality/calming voice to make children feel comfortable. Our dental hygienists will spend more time with the patients than the dentist. They are the educators of our practice, and I am confident that we have one of the best pediatric dental hygienist teams in Hawaii.
My dental assistants are a very important part of our practice. When working on children, a great assistant has the ability to calm a child down as well as being able to hold their composure in stressful situations. Our dental assistants all have a very calming demeanor which helps in reducing the anxiety of your children during dental procedures. An assistant plays a big role in the quality of dentistry I can perform. In a practice that provides as many services as we do, our assistants are very talented and extremely hard working.
A Message for Parents – My thoughts and feelings about pediatric dentistry
My treatment philosophy on pediatric dentistry is simple, perform the least amount of dental work on baby teeth as possible. Not all decay on baby teeth should or needs to be filled, it is a win if a baby tooth falls out with decay. Every dentist has a different opinion on how or when to treat cavities, you can feel comfortable knowing that everything I recommend for my patients is what I would do for my own children.
Children will love their dentist if they are cavity free and only visit the office for cleaning appointments. One of the major differences between dental offices are the options that are offered to calm your child when dental work is required.
This is a list of the most common techniques in treating children:
- No sedation – There are many children who are able to tolerate dentistry just like an adult would. They lay down on the dental chair, watch the TV on the ceiling and are capable of handling the shot and drill.
- Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) – This is the safest sedative option dentists have, giving children a “floaty feeling” which reduces anxiety and has some analgesic properties. In our office nitrous oxide is typically used on children 4yrs and older who are able to open their mouths and breathe through their nose at the same time. However, if a child is crying, the nitrous oxide will have no effects and the sedation effects are negated. Our office provides nitrous oxide as an option.
- Oral medications/conscious sedation- This technique involves giving your child an oral medication to relax a child during dental treatment. There are many different levels of conscious sedation (mild, moderate and deep) as well as different types of medications that are used in pediatric dentistry. Our office offers mild conscious sedation for young (2ys and older), anxious children, or those requiring extensive dental work. We offer mild sedation in our office.
- Hospital dentistry/general anesthesia- When you hear these terms, this means having your child put to sleep in a hospital to complete their dental work. I believe there is a time and place for this, especially for children who have medical issues or are of special needs. I personally don’t agree with this method for healthy children as I could never fathom putting my own children under general anesthesia for dental work. Seeing a child intubated through their noses with multiple strong medications flowing through their bodies to induce sedation in my mind is overkill for dentistry since these procedures can easily be done in the office. I think that sometimes this method of sedation is used to make things easier for the dentist rather than having a child’s best interest in mind.
What Makes our Practice Special
- Whereas many pediatric dental offices may have multiple chairs in a single room to do cleanings, we have a 10 room facility that has separate rooms for the privacy of each child.
- We are a comprehensive pediatric dental office, than can provide many different types of services as well as having the most up-to-date equipment in the dental field.
- We provide “HONEST” dentistry which basically means we don’t treat dentistry like a business! With our conservative treatment planning/options for baby teeth, our intention is to educate you and your child to prevent cavities and reduce the amount of dentistry performed as we do everything possible to let baby teeth fall out with decay.
- We offer comprehensive orthodontics. There are certain circumstances where the timing of early orthodontic treatment is very important. Performing orthodontics in our office allows us to oversee oral hygiene during appointments.
- Solea laser dentistry allows us to perform many procedures (fillings, soft tissue surgery procedures) without having to give shots and prevents a child from dealing with being numb 3-4 hours after an appointment. Removing decay with a laser eliminates that eerie high pitched grinding sounds on your teeth from the dental drill and allows soft tissue procedures to be performed without anesthetic and sutures. Patients who use the laser can eat right away after a procedure since they are not numb! Most of our laser treatments are done on baby teeth.
- We perform tongue tie and lip tie removals for infants who are having difficulty with breastfeeding or children with swallowing or speech problems. The Solea laser allows us to perform these procedures with no stitches, little bleeding and the quickest recovery possible. A CO2 laser is the best tool to perform tongue tie procedures.
- Esthetic white anterior crowns (No silver front teeth); One of the hardest and most challenging procedures in pediatric dentistry is the placement of esthetic/white crowns on children’s front teeth. For years we have been routinely doing this procedure with parent satisfaction.
- If dental work is required, we can typically schedule the procedure within 1-2 weeks.
- All active patients have direct access to my cell phone number.
- Our office does not accept referrals from family dentists.
- All dental cleanings are performed by dental hygienists
- We are a committed dental practice that requires committed patients. We will inactivate patients from our practice who do not show up for their appointments.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child should go to the dentist within six months of getting their first tooth or no later than their first birthday. Especially for first time parents, there is a very important step to follow.
Choosing the right pediatric dentist for your children can be very overwhelming. The best advice I could give you in finding a good dentist is through word of mouth, rather than social media. There are many paid advertisements on the internet and magazines by dental offices. There are unfortunately competitors who ask people to put inappropriate and made up reviews on social media sites as well, all of which we have no control of even if they were never our patients. After your first meeting with your pediatric dentist, make sure you are comfortable with both doctor and staff members. Don’t feel hesitant to ask questions. Your child is your most prized possession so no question is too trivial. If you don’t feel the office is a good fit for your child, try another office! You always need to have a good feeling about your child’s health care provider.
Sensitive Topics in Pediatric Dentistry
Parents are welcome to accompany their child for cleaning appointments. However, when any dental procedures such as fillings, crowns, etc. need to be performed, we kindly ask that parents remain in the waiting room. There are situations where we feel a parent in the room will be beneficial and in these cases, I will ask you to help with the procedure. But a hard fact for many parents to accept is children will typically do better without the parent in the room. Treating young or anxious patients can be very challenging and stressful for children, parents and even the dentist. So I ask every parent to allow me to make the final decision on whether or not they are allowed to be in the room. If it’s an absolute must to be in the room during operative procedures it may be in everyone’s best interest to find an office to better serve your needs. As much as I respect why this may be important to some parents, I would ask parents to respect what is important to our office as well.
Don’t expect every appointment on your child to go smoothly; although we try to avoid crying or having your child being traumatized after operative appointments, the truth is, it happens. So the best thing to do is to start your child with a dentist at a young age, and let’s try and prevent cavities together as a team!
My hope is that this information gives you a little insight about our practice philosophies and provides you with some knowledge about pediatric dentistry. Thank you very much for taking the time to read this, and I wish you the best of luck in finding a pediatric dentist that you feel comfortable with and trust.
All the Best,
Dr. Derek Tom