Safety First
Children’s Dental Health Associates has built a rigorous system of checks and balances to offer the highest level of pediatric dental care in the safest manner possible
by Bill Donahue

Step through the door to any one of Children’s Dental Health Associates’ pediatric dental offices throughout the Greater Philadelphia Area and it’s easy to see why this practice is, in a word, unique.

Each of the practice’s 15 offices is designed in a fun and engaging motif intended to make going to the dentist as enjoyable as possible. At one office, for example, patients will find themselves surrounded by tropical fish, octopuses and other underwater creatures, while another will take patients on a jungle adventure, and yet another will transport patients to a galaxy far, far away.

The practice’s most compelling attribute, however, has nothing to do with décor; rather, it is its culture of safety. At each location, every patient falls under the watchful eye of a team of highly trained, thoroughly vetted individuals, with treatment provided in an environment of full transparency designed to protect not only children’s teeth but also their overall health and well-being.

“We do everything we can to make sure our patients are safe at all times,” says Eric Felix, D.M.D., owner of Children’s Dental Health Associates. “We have a lot of protocols to make sure kids are never left alone. Some are mandated by the state, but we go above and beyond with a lot of our precautions. I think that separates us from a lot of other practices.”

All of the practitioners at Children’s Dental Health Associates are pediatric dentists who have received specialized training that enables them to treat children of all ages. At Children’s Dental Health Associates, the doctors provide the full scope of preventive and therapeutic oral health care—everything from standard teeth cleanings and fluoride treatments to sleep dentistry and digital X-rays—for infants and children through adolescence. Furthermore, the staff is comfortable creating individualized treatment plans for patients with special needs, specialized health conditions or concerns such as severe anxiety.

Be it a doctor, dental assistant or technician, each prospective new hire must undergo a comprehensive vetting process before receiving the green light to work with patients. This rigorous screening includes a Federal Bureau of Investigation fingerprinting check, a Pennsylvania child abuse history clearance and a Pennsylvania criminal background check, according to Brook L. Murphy, the practice manager for Children’s Dental Health Associates.

“It doesn’t end after they are hired; those three checks are redone on employees once every three years,” she says. “Also, each new hire goes through three different levels of management in the interview process, and they also do a ‘shadow day’ because we need to make sure we’re getting the right people to interact with our patients, and having the right people has a lot more to do with just their level of experience.”

In addition, all staff members participate in a yearly training and education program offered by HealthStream. HealthStream coaches staff members through vital topics such as developmentally appropriate care of pediatric patients, identifying and assessing victims of abuse and neglect, and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance, as well as workplace violence, workplace diversity and customer service. Also, all pediatric dental supervisors and dental assistants receive certification in CPR.

“One of our policies centers around no child being left alone with a doctor or any other individual; the dental assistant who greets the child also stays with the child from beginning to end, so there’s someone with the child at all times,” says Murphy. “Also, we do quality assurance on treatment planning, where a certain percentage of all treatment plans are reviewed by a second doctor on a daily basis. This is just another check that we do to make sure our patients are receiving appropriate care.”

Other safety protocols are tied to the practice’s physical environment. For example, each office has rubber floors, which are soft, safe and easy to clean. Also, whenever possible, Dr. Felix and his team prefer to use disposable dental instruments as a way to prevent infection and avoid cross-contamination.

“We also use mercury-free fillings and have every patient wear safety glasses so nothing contaminates their eyes,” adds Dr. Felix. “As part of our treatment plan, we take their weight and blood pressure during every visit, and we do medical updates every six months. Our approach to treatment is about the patient’s overall health and safety, not just caring for their teeth.”

This culture of safety was established by seasoned professionals with several decades of experience, all guided by best-in-class protocols provided by the state and other qualified sources. Even so, Dr. Felix and his team are always open to suggestion. In fact, Murphy and her management team welcome feedback from patients and their parents by way of a suggestion box at each location.

Dr. Felix wants every patient and parent to know that safety is his No. 1 concern. He also wants them to know that Children’s Dental Health Associates is equally focused on education and, of course, fun. Besides the festive décor, other child-friendly amenities include full-size arcade games, TVs for viewing movies and dentist chairs designed specifically for kids. Also, the practice hosts a number of employee participation days that have become incredibly popular. These include National Superhero Day, Sports Day, PJs Day, Favorite Movie Day and, last but not least, Halloween. During these special days, not only do employees participate—by dressing up accordingly—but patients are encouraged to do so, too.

In terms of education, a bulletin board posted in the waiting room of each location contains essential information about issues germane to lifelong dental health, among other topics. Some of the most popular topics patients have learned about through the bulletin boards have to do with nutrition, Internet safety, toy safety, bullying and cellphone safety and courtesy.

“With everything we do, we have patients’ well-being in mind,” says Dr. Felix. “We want to reduce patients’ anxiety and make going to the dentist as fun as possible, but everything here is done to maximize patient safety. Yes, we’re fun and friendly, but the biggest thing to keep in mind is that we have all kinds of precautions to focus on patient safety that most people would probably never even realize.”

Visit or call 610-622-1949 for more information on the practice and its 15 locations throughout the Greater Philadelphia Area.

Photograph by Nina Lea Photography