Choosing a dentist for your child can be a challenge. For some families, the choice between the convenience of a general practitioner versus the specialized knowledge and experience of a trained pediatric dentist can be confusing. Here is some information on the field of pediatric dentistry along with questions that can help you choose the right dentist for your child.
Is a Pediatric Dentist Best for My Child?
Not every family needs a pediatric dentist, but many parents prefer a specialized dentist for their children. Pediatric dentists are child-focused experts with special training and experience. In addition to spending the traditional four years in dental school, pediatric dentists also complete an extra two-year residency working with children from infants to teens. This means they go into their early years of practice with child-centered experience under their belt and continue building on that experience throughout their years serving children.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, some of the advantages of choosing a pediatric dentist include:
- Experience with infant oral health needs. When most of us were children, dental visits often didn’t start until elementary school. But as our knowledge of oral health issues grows, the importance of good oral care from infancy on has become clear. Many general practice dentists simply don’t have experience in treating babies and young toddlers.
- Specialized preventive care: pediatric dentists are trained to provide preventive care like check-ups and cleanings in a caring environment. The pediatric dentistry field is designed to build a lifelong sense of trust and security so that going to the dentist is not a scary or intimidating experience.
- Child-focused treatment of cavities: the treatment of cavities in baby teeth is important but isn’t always the same as the treatment of decay in adult teeth. Your pediatric dentist knows what’s best for baby teeth. In some cases, this can include the use of silver diamine fluoride instead of fillings on baby teeth when appropriate.
- Habit counseling including thumb sucking and pacifier use.
- Child-specific nutrition counseling: your pediatric dentist can help parents make sure children get the nutrition they need for good oral and overall health. This can include breaking the sippy cup habit, one of the biggest challenges to dental health in young children.
- Managing child-specific oral health issues including frenectomies and treating gum disease in young children.
- Early assessment for orthodontic issues: your pediatric dentist is specially trained to catch orthodontic issues early. In some cases, this can shorten the length of orthodontic treatment.
Choosing a Dentist: Special Considerations for Special Needs Children
Special needs children and adults also have special dental needs. This includes children with developmental delays, ADHD and other diagnoses. As special needs parents know, the importance of a calm environment and a patient and knowledgeable staff equipped to work with special needs individuals can’t be overstated. Pediatric dentists are also trained in the use of nitrous oxide sedation in children when anxiety or sitting still is an issue, in many cases making all the difference in a successful treatment.
Choosing a Dentist: Environment Matters
So many adults have long-standing dental anxiety. In some cases, this comes from childhood experiences that were cold, unpleasant or painful. In many cases, a pediatric dental practice with a warm, open room, a pleasant atmosphere and a friendly, accommodating staff can help establish a lifelong sense of comfort in the dentist’s chair. A caring staff with a focus on treating children can help generate enthusiasm for routine dental care and make tougher visits like fillings go more smoothly.
What Questions Should I Ask When Choosing a Dentist for My Child?
It’s often best to start with some of the basics recommended by the American Dental Association for both children and adults:
- How does the dental office handle emergencies outside of office hours
- How is the patient’s dental and medical history recorded?
Does the office accept our insurance?
We also recommend going further when looking for a dentist for a child:
- What special training does the dentist have in treating children?
- How will the practice address any special needs or concerns for my family?
- How does the dentist approach preventive care and nutrition issues, along with other oral health issues like sippy cup use, pacifier use and thumb sucking?
NOVA Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics
Many children’s needs can certainly be met in family or general dental practices, but often parents prefer a child-focused practice. At NOVA Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics, our dentists have specialized training and decades of experience working with children from infancy through the teen years. Whether it’s helping families ditch the pacifier or sippy cup, treating cavities in toddlers with minimal discomfort or helping families decide if and when braces are needed, our experience with children of all ages give us an edge. Our years of experience help us identify potential orthodontic issues early, and having an in-house orthodontist makes coordinating care easy and seamless. Replacing fear and anxiety with comfort and security is one of the most important things an excellent pediatric practice can offer. We work to make preventive care and check-ups a safe, pleasant experience, setting your child up for a lifelong positive outlook on routine dental care.