This article shares tips on how to choose best pediatric dentist for your child in your area, as well as what to do if you discover that your current dentist isn’t the best fit.
While you may not actually enjoy going to the dentist, scheduling regular visits is a key aspect of maintaining good oral and dental health. As a dentist, I know that there are several factors that can improve your overall experience at the dentist’s office, and how to choose best pediatric dentist for your child you like and trust is perhaps the most important.
This is especially true for kids, who may suffer from childhood dental anxiety and need a pediatric dentist who can calm their fears.
Not sure how to choose best pediatric dentist for your child? I’m going to walk you through the entire process in this article.
With this information, along with a little research into dentists in your local area, as well as consistent, positive reinforcement, your child may begin to actually look forward to his dental visits!
What’s the difference between pediatric and adult dentistry?
All dentists are doctors of oral health. However, pediatric dentists earn a specialization in children’s dentistry by completing an additional 2-3 years of schooling beyond the standard undergraduate degree and four years of dental school required for all dentists.
This additional training focuses on child development and the dental needs of infants and children, which distinguishes pediatric dentists from their colleagues who only see adult patients.
Some of the specific areas of focus of children’s dentistry include:
Preventive and invasive oral care of children: Pediatric dentists learn how to recognize tongue thrust, tongue ties, baby bottle tooth decay, enamel hypoplasia, and other conditions that only affect children.
Developmental and growth issues, related to the mouth, jaw, face and head: Baby teeth are very different from adult teeth, and pediatric dentists must learn how to handle different eruption patterns and the many stages of oral development that infants, toddlers, and children move through.
Treatment of children under anesthesia and sedation by dental sedation services. A good pediatric dentist will emphasize the importance of nose breathing (as opposed to mouth breathing). Learning this key function won’t just improve the experience of a child’s dental visit, but it will also improve sleep and overall health.
Treatment of medically compromised and special needs children, including focus on child psychology: Children with special needs require special dental care, and a pediatric dentist can work with parents to ensure that their child establishes the proper foundation for long-term oral and dental health.
Pediatric dentistry focuses on treatment of babies in the beginning stages of tooth formation, all the way through adolescence. Once a teen has reached 18 years old, the pediatric dentist is required to refer the patient to an practice of general dentistry.
how to choose best pediatric dentist for your child I can trust?
Ready to find a pediatric dentist for your child? Here are my best recommendations.
Ask other parents for recommendations
Probably the greatest suggestion I can offer parents looking for a good pediatric dentist is to turn to word-of-mouth recommendations.
Seeking the advice of other parents and asking questions about the comfort of the office and the overall atmosphere can give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse of a dental practice that a phone call or website visit may not reveal.
The best recommendations will come from parents who have seen their children interact with the actual dentist, as opposed to just the hygienists who perform the cleanings. Typically, these parents or guardians will have children who have required additional services or procedures, including fillings. In my experience, they will be the most honest and forthcoming in their critiques of the dental office.
Check online reviews
Sites such as Yelp may be a good source of reviews and other insider information about a pediatric dentist, but I must warn you: Don’t entrust your child’s oral care to someone who pays for favorable reviews, or who uses manipulation tactics to drum up business.
Be safe and look for one-on-one, unbiased advice! And if a reviewer leaves an email address or other contact information with his review, don’t be afraid to reach out to get his honest opinion.
Another great tip for how to choose best pediatric dentist for your child is to ask staffers at a local dental school who they recommend. Dental school staffers will likely have their finger on the pulse of newly practicing dentists who are thoughtful, skillful, and still building a clientele.
I will also note that, in addition to asking for referrals, you should seriously consider taking your child to have services completed at the school. Now, I understand that you may be leery of having your child seen by a student or intern, but keep in mind that the student caring for your child is being supervised—thoughtfully, carefully, and with intent to not only provide the greatest treatment possible, but also to train and bring a favorable reputation to the school.
Additionally, pediatric clinics and dental schools are usually smaller and offer a warmer, more intimate setting. This can be especially beneficial for a child who has special needs or difficult oral issues to tackle.
Individually evaluate each dentist at a practice, clinic, or school
After choosing a pediatric dental practice, clinic, or school to take your child to, you may have the opportunity to choose among several dentists. It’s important to take this process seriously, because even at a good practice, one dentist may be a better fit for your child than another.
I will say that older dentists may not automatically provide the kind, grandfatherly experience you’d expect. If they’ve been in dentistry for a long time, the practice could could be growing stale for them. On the other hand, a young dentist with several children may be the perfect fit, as he may have a firmer grasp on issues facing kids and the most up-to-date ways to deal with them.
Before making any decision, however, I cannot say enough about the results of one-to-one communication with the staff of the office, school, or clinic you will be visiting. Invest the time to call and ask questions, including, How long has the dentist been in practice? And, Does the dentist have children? If so, what is their age range?
Bottom line: You are giving someone the authority to examine your child’s mouth, and this dentist may end up drilling, filing, prodding, or pulling your son or daughter’s teeth. With all that at stake, I don’t believe you could call too many offices or over-research the topic of children’s dentistry.