December 8, 2023

Secrets to Baby Smiles: A Pediatric Dentist’s Guide to Nurturing Tiny Teeth

Greetings, readers! In this week’s Feature Friday, we’re delighted to introduce you to Kellie McGinley, a local mom and board-certified pediatric dentist whose passion for growing healthy smiles extends far beyond the dental chair. Sit back and dive into Kellie’s world as she shares insights into her family, her journey into pediatric dentistry, and practical tips for new parents navigating the exciting realm of oral health for little ones.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your family? What do you like to do when you aren’t at work?

– Hi! I was born and raised here in Reno, Nevada and am now a board certified pediatric dentist. I am married to my wonderful and supportive husband, Lucas. We have a soon to be one year old daughter, Shay, and a mini aussie fur baby, Arbor. Lucas and I met in dental school at the University of Michigan, GO BLUE! So in our free time, we love to watch Michigan sports together as a family with our friends. We also love to ski, golf, and enjoy our northern Nevada mountain life. Right now, I absolutely love to watch Shay grow and develop skills as each day she does something new. It’s been a wonderful experience seeing her grow over this last year!

What inspired you to specialize in pediatric dentistry, and how has that passion translated into your role as a mom?

– I love my job and working with kids! I myself was in a dental trauma, knocking out my front tooth with a softball accident, in high school. My dentist and endodontist at that time inspired me and I thought that is what I want to do… help people and especially kids in an important way through their smile. I strive to care for each of my patient’s as if they were family and now I have my own little one to care for which gives me a well-rounded perspective on child development. Working with kids is an incredible, joyful experience and makes each day special. I love working with kids who may be fearful to become confident and happy at the office. Now as a mom, I have even more passion for caring for kids to make sure they have a positive experience and a big smile.

What are some common misconceptions about dental care for babies that you often come across in your pediatric dentistry practice?

– “Baby teeth will fall out someday so we don’t need to care for them” True, baby teeth will fall out… However, the last tooth is on average not until 12-13 years old. Cavities can be painful for children and kids need teeth to eat, talk, and for oral facial development. So we need to keep these baby teeth healthy for a long time.

– Baby teeth maintenance and good oral health is important from the beginning. If baby teeth are lost prematurely or the child adopts habits such as thumb sucking then the mouth is not able to grow properly. This can lead to child sleep disorders, bed wetting, or behavioral issues such as ADHD. Your pediatric dentist will monitor your baby’s growth and development at each check-up and guide you along the way.

– “We have bad genetics for teeth and that’s why my child has cavities.” Cavities are caused by a high sugar/carbohydrate diet that feeds bacteria in our mouth. So we need to brush 2x/day and floss with parent’s help to fight against cavity-causing bacteria. Genetics have very, very little to do with cavities.

– “Tongue-ties or lip-ties are not important to address for a newborn or infant.” Tethered oral tissues can affect the way babies latch to either breast or bottle. Not only for infant feeding development, these tissue ties can affect the position of teeth and could affect speech or breathing. If you ever have a question, I would be more than happy to evaluate these ties for your baby and release them if needed.

“Amber teething necklaces are good for teething.” There is no current reliable research to support this and parents should take caution for the necklaces can be a choking hazard.

“Plant based milk doesn’t cause cavities.” Be cautious with milk such as coconut, almond, pea milks as some have a lot of added sugar which can cause cavities. Look for no sugar added milk alternatives.

For new and expecting moms, what are some practical tips for caring for a baby’s oral health from the very beginning?

– Start early! From newborn to the first tooth, it’s good practice to massage baby’s gums with a warm washcloth or a finger brush for oral stimulation and to gently clean milk off the tongue. Once the first tooth comes in, start brushing with an extra soft bristle toothbrush (not a silicone brush) to clean the teeth. At your first dental visit, talk to your pediatric dentist about how much toothpaste to be using.

– As an infant with teeth, it is important to help babies fall asleep on their own, without the bottle or nursing before bed. Once the baby gets teeth, the last thing that should be in their mouth is a toothbrush to clean their teeth. Falling asleep to either breast or bottle can lead to early childhood cavities on the baby teeth. I worked with my daughter at 3 months of age to not fall asleep (at naps or bedtime) to her bottle. Now we have the 5 B’s routine at night… bath, bottle, book, brush teeth, bed. If a baby does have a bottle at night and has teeth, it is important to brush or wipe teeth clean before falling asleep. The milk can stick to the teeth, feed bacteria at night without saliva flow, and can create cavities.

Any advice for parents dealing with teething troubles?

– Teething can be a hard time! Teething tools (I like the EZ-PZ ones) that babies can hold on to and chew on are always good. Freezing a washcloth then giving it to the baby to chew on can feel nice on their gums. Sometimes infants like the crunchiness of the puffs to chew with new teething coming in. Infant (homemade) breastmilk or formula ice pops are yummy and can feel good. You can also try a toothbrush with a wide handle for kids to chew one, make sure you supervise though. Tylenol to help with sleeping and lots of patience. This will pass and then soon they will be in kindergarten growing up so be patient and you will get through this milestone!

What makes your pediatric dentistry office special or unique?

– We are specialized in growing a happy healthy smile for kids of all ages, from newborn to early college years. We also see kids with all spectrums of special health care needs. Our team strives to make positive experiences for kids. We also offer in-office oral conscious sedation for kids who may be fearful for treatment. I am also one of the only pediatric providers in the region to see kids with cleft lip and palate starting as a newborn with a therapy called Nasoalveolar Molding (NAM) and will see these kids through their many surgeries. I also work with laser therapy for treatment of lip and tongue-ties from newborn through high school.

How can parents looking for pediatric dentistry services in the area get in touch with you to make an appointment?

– Parents can always call my office Growing Smiles Pediatric Dentistry and request to be seen with me at 775-824-2323 or for more information. I am always here to help for routine care or emergencies. I want to be a trusting dental home for any child in need.

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Thanks for reading! I’m Kristi, a momma of 2 and professional newborn photographer based in Reno NV. I specialize in capturing beautiful and timeless photos of newborns and their families. If you’re interested in scheduling a session, please don’t hesitate to contact me at or visit my website at I can’t wait to work with you and create beautiful memories that you’ll cherish for a lifetime.

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