Dr. Paul Duga (left) and Dr. Shawna Adams-Feeney have been putting the fun into trips to the dentist for local kids for more than two decades. (Photos by John C. Cotey)

Your child’s wide and toothy smile may easily brighten a room, but ensuring that his or her teeth are healthy requires good dental hygiene at home and the kind of care that professionals like those at Dr. Duga, Dr. Feeney & Associates Pediatric Dentistry have been providing in our area for 21 years.

The colorfully decorated office in the Somerset Professional Park in Tampa Palms (located off Bruce B. Downs [BBD] Blvd. at Amberly Dr.) has more video game consoles than X-ray machines and the approach to dentistry is child-friendly as well, for a practical reason.

“Dr. Feeney and I feel it is important to provide one-on-one personalized care,” says Paul Duga, DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery). “Kids are not little adults. They need that familiarity, so it’s not a clinic where they see a different dentist every time.”

Shawna Adams-Feeney, DMD (Doctor of Medical Dentistry) says that part of the attraction of pediatric dentistry for her is the chance to make a difference in a young person’s life. 

“I like working with kids because we have the ability to help them establish good habits early,” she says.

Although Dr. Duga and Dr. Adams-Feeney (who are both Board-certified pediatric dentists) share the goal of providing a welcoming dental home for the children of Wesley Chapel and New Tampa, they reached it in different ways.

This is a familiar area to anyone who has taken their kids to Drs. Duga and Adams-Feeney, providing kids a chance to relax and play before seeing the dentist.

After earning his DDS degree from the Marquette University School of Dentistry in Milwaukee, Dr. Duga says he worked as a general dentist in Milwaukee for a few years before becoming interested in pediatric dentistry. 

He earned his Certificate in Pediatric Dentistry from the Louisiana State University School of Dentistry in New Orleans, an experience that, he says, validated his belief that children’s dental needs are best served by specialists.

“Every day, something came up that improved my knowledge base and skills to care for kids,” Dr. Duga says. He adds that there’s a good reason to choose a pediatric dentist over a general dentist to meet the oral health needs of your children.

“With kids, things are dynamic, always changing,” he says. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Adams-Feeney says that pediatric dentistry was always her professional goal and she earned her Certificate in Pediatric Dentistry from the University of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, after receiving her DMD degree from the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston.

Getting Started Early

When it comes to pediatric dental health, Dr. Duga says that starting early means seeing a dentist by the time a child is between 12 to 18 months old, both to establish a clinical relationship and to monitor their oral development. Those early visits also are opportunities for parents to get information about caring for their child’s gums and teeth. Dr. Adams-Feeney stresses the importance of baby teeth in overall dental health.

“If you lose a baby tooth early, teeth can shift and that can cause problems when permanent teeth erupt, which can cause problems with bites,” she says, adding that dental health also can play a role in a child’s school performance.

“Dental issues are the number one reason children miss school,” she says.

Services available at the practice include examinations, cleanings, sealant placement, tooth repair such as fillings and crowns, as well as cosmetic whitening and orthodontic alignment.

Digital X-ray technology is used, which produces images with less radiation, and sedation dentistry with nitrous oxide is available if a young patient is particularly nervous about having a dental procedure.

Perhaps one of the best means of easing anxiety in young patients, however, is the overall ambiance of the dental practice.

The walls at the office of Drs. Duga and Adams-Feeney are decorated with an aquatic-themed mural, video games and kid-friendly reading material, while overhead video monitors allow patients to enjoy some of their favorite shows while being treated.

There’s also an understanding that a pediatric appointment may require a little more flexibility on the part of the staff, says Dr. Adams-Feeney.

“We work on kid time,” she says. “Sometimes, we really have to work with them to make it a positive experience.”

That flexibility means being available for families when dental emergencies come up outside of normal office hours.

“One of us is always on call, so if something happens on a weekend, we can still be reached,” Dr. Adams-Feeney says.

Another example of the practice’s commitment to its patients is that the two doctors continue seeing their patients through their college years, ensuring continuity of dental health at a time of great personal change. “Otherwise, sometimes if they go away to college, they won’t see a dentist during those four years,” says Dr. Duga. “During winter break, we get a lot of our college kids coming back.”

A History Of Care & Caring

Dr. Duga established the practice in 1998 and has been an active resource in the New Tampa community by participating in events such as the Hunter’s Green Health & Safety Expos, supporting local schools and sports teams and working with Christina’s Smiles, a national nonprofit organization that provides dental care to children whose families have trouble affording it.

“We want to be part of the community because (New Tampa is) like a small town in a big area,” says Dr. Duga, a longtime Tampa Palms resident. 

The practice’s business coordinator Renee Mari says that meeting the dental needs of their young patients is the mission of the staff at the office, but accommodating the expectations of their parents also is an essential element of its success. 

“We’ll work hard with you to determine how your insurance benefits work in our office,” says Renee, who also emphasizes the importance of first impressions. “We extend a friendly, caring approach to every patient that comes in the front door.”

Sometimes, the patients come in as a group, such as when Lori Simon brings her six children, whose ages range from 6-19, in for checkups, cleanings and treatments.

“I love the staff,” Simon says. “I actually moved from New Tampa to Dade City but we still go there because they’ve always been very responsive and willing to work with the kids.” 

New Tampa resident Rebecca Berton says her two children, ages 7 and 9, also have found a welcoming dental home with Drs. Duga and Adams-Feeney. 

“They’ve been coaching me about how to take care of their teeth and what kind of toothpaste is best for different stages of their lives,” Berton says. “They also come in and support what we’re trying to instill in them — to have good habits for healthy teeth — so it’s not just mom saying sugar’s not good for them.” 

Dr. Duga say that the goal is to achieve a positive outcome for the practice’s young patients by the time they’re ready to go out on their own.

“We practice conservative dentistry and try to establish lifelong healthy habits so our patients can become adults with virtually no dental concerns,” he says. 

Dr. Duga, Dr. Feeney & Associates Pediatric Dentistry is located at 15293 Amberly Dr., Tampa. You can learn more about their services by visiting DrDugaDrFeeney.com or by calling (813) 631-1100.

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