By Nick Eustis
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
When it comes to taking care of yourself, one of the most important things you can do is take care of your teeth. Poor dental hygiene can result in needing expensive dental work and tooth loss, and can also have detrimental effects on the body as a whole. That’s why developing oral care habits early is so important, and that is part of the work Dr. Michelle Hershberger does at Youth Smiles Dental. Her Penn Avenue practice sees over 100 patients a day, and accepts nearly all forms of insurance to ensure that those who need access to quality dental care the most can get their regular checkups.
How did you decide on dentistry?
I always wanted to go into the medical field, and I had a chance to observe some dental offices with dentists that I knew, and I just thought it looked like a very interesting field of medicine to go into. The nice thing is you have the medical background, but you also get to be creative, because of the different types of treatments you get to do. It was kind of the best of both worlds, you get to do scientific things, but you also get to be creative as well.
What brought you to East Liberty?
This practice opened originally in 2008 under a different company and name. I was working in general practice and I had the opportunity to come to this area. I was actually the first dentist at this office when it opened. Then, that company left the area, they closed and they were going to close the office. I didn’t want to see the office close, so I was able to buy the practice from the original company in 2014, and I was able to make it my own.
Why did you want to keep the practice in East Liberty?
There are a lot of children in this area. We do see some parents and grandparents of our patients, but for the most part we like to focus on children, teenagers and young adults, because there’s a lot of need for that. If the practice would have left, there is Children’s Hospital down the street, but there’s a long wait. It’s not easy to get in and get treatment as quickly as some of the children need it, so we’re able to provide that.
How does Youth Smiles help children without access to expensive dental care?
We do accept basically every insurance that I know of, private and Medicaid. When we opened, it was an office that would see primarily Medicaid, because that was such an underserved population, and that was our main focus, because we wanted to be able to reach those children that can’t otherwise get the dental care they need. That’s still been our main focus. The majority of the children we see here have Medicaid.
What advice would you give to those who are scared to go to the dentist?
The nice thing about working with children is, if we give them a good experience when they’re little, they have less chance of having fears when they get older. I would just say, find a nice dentist that you feel comfortable with, because a lot of times, once you find that, you don’t move to another dentist easily. That’s why it’s nice to start a good relationship with your dentist younger, so you have a good history and you don’t have those bad experiences to draw from.