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‘A dental home’: La Jolla’s Hagan Ortho + Kids Dental works to transform smiles

Hagan Ortho + Kids Dental is at 7300 Girard Ave. in La Jolla.
(Courtesy of Hagan Ortho + Kids Dental)

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At Hagan Ortho + Kids Dental in La Jolla, Dr. Tracy Hagan prides herself on making her patients comfortable.

“Our goal is to make each appointment as seamless and easy and fun as it possibly can be,” she said.

Hagan’s practice, at 7300 Girard Ave., specializes in pediatric dentistry and orthodontics for adults and children.

Hagan, the sole practitioner, opened the office in February 2021 after working for 20 years in practices in Los Angeles and San Diego. But she wanted to practice in her community.

“I’m from La Jolla; my kids go to school here,” she said.

Her office features state-of-the-art equipment, with an open floor plan and balconies for refreshments.

It’s a “boutique practice” that differs from a typical dental experience in that “it’s like coming to my home,” Hagan said.

Patients at Hagan Ortho + Kids Dental will find that appointments are planned with time to answer questions.

“We try to be as flexible as we can with scheduling,” Hagan said. “We know all of our patients and we try to build relationships with them and their families.”

Emergencies are accommodated quickly, she said.

Hagan said she became an orthodontist after following a pre-med path at UC San Diego in La Jolla. “I was applying to medical school and a friend had gotten into dental school and it just sounded really interesting,” she said.

After researching the field, Hagan decided to apply to dental school with the intent of being an orthodontist.

“It seemed really cool to transform a smile,” she said.

With orthodontics being a popular field and residencies hard to find, Hagan became involved early in dental school with a pediatric dental mission group.

“We raised money and then went to third world countries to do dental work on children,” she said. “I actually started the program at our dental school as well.”

She said the mission work sparked her interest in pediatric dentistry, leading to her pursuit of both residencies simultaneously.

Hagan said the challenge of pediatric dentistry is the demeanor required for younger children who come in for cavity fillings.

“You have to have patience [and] an office that doesn’t seem scary,” she said. “You have to have staff that’s really gentle and patient. … It can be hard emotionally.”

Hagan said her practice is “focused on making sure children are comfortable and safe and leave happy.”

Pediatric patients should be seen as early as 1 year old, Hagan said. The first appointment is “a happy visit” to get to know the patient and offer “a dental home,” establishing a relationship before dental work is needed.

“Many times you might have a 2-year-old that falls and hits their front tooth and yet you haven’t seen a dentist,” Hagan said. “Who do you call?”

After the first visit, during which Hagan ensures the patient’s teeth are coming in as they should, children are seen every six to 12 months until age 3 and then every six months for routine care.

She doesn’t take new patients older than 18, though some of her existing patients stay through their early 20s.

Orthodontic patients ideally should be first evaluated at age 7 or 8 “to make sure the jaws are growing properly and that there’s enough room for all the teeth,” Hagan said.

Some cases require treatment before age 10; other patients are adults whose teeth have shifted over time.

Having orthodontic and pediatric dentistry services in the same office provides the ease of coordinating appointments and the simplicity of not having to go elsewhere for orthodontic work.

Parents with multiple children “really appreciate that aspect,” Hagan said.

In her orthodontics practice, Hagan finds she’s doing more Invisalign — clear plastic trays to move teeth — than metal braces. To facilitate that, she uses a digital intraoral scanner in her office that takes two minutes to get a scan of the mouth and a 3-D X-ray machine with ultra-low-dose radiation.

“It makes for very quick and comfortable appointments,” she said. “With Invisalign especially, it’s just made it so easy for parents and adults to straighten that tooth that’s been bothering you for a long time [and] broaden your smile.”

The Invisalign treatment for adults is usually a year or less, Hagan said, and in most cases, the cost is the same as for metal braces.

Hagan Ortho + Kids Dental is open from noon to 5 p.m. Mondays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays. For more information, visit hagansmiles.com or call (858) 754-9277.

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