Browse through the “dentist” listings in your town or city and you may find a number of dentists that describe themselves as having a “family practice”, but if you have children, it’s a wise idea to take the time to find an individual who is truly a pediatric dentist.
- Special Training
- What Do They Do?
- When Should We Visit?
- Why That Young?
- How Often Should We Go?
- Making The Choice
Why choose a pediatric dentist? Because they specialize in working with children, just as pediatricians work with children for general medical care. Specifically, these dentists care for kids from the time they get their first teeth into their teenage years.
They provide annual check-ups and cleanings as well as take care of any oral problems or emergencies that might arise. And because they provide a calm, caring environment for children who require dental care all the way until the years they emerge into adulthood, the pediatric dentist becomes a familiar face that their young patients and parents can trust.
Do pediatric dentists have special training?
Every dentist takes required courses and does internship work in order to achieve their 4-year degree from an accredited dental school.
Beyond dental school, however, pediatric dentists have two to three additional years of training that makes them specialists in caring for the dental needs of infants, children, and teens, as well as children with special needs. This allows them to develop the skill and compassion needed when caring for children.
Little ones can develop an early fear of the dentist and this extra training helps them address things such as anxiety and fear amongst the youngest of patients.
Because of this special training, it’s a smart idea for parents to choose a pediatric dentist rather than someone who works with both adults and children. That’s because kids aren’t just tiny adults!
Their dental needs are far different from those of a grown man or woman and a board-certified pediatric dentist understands those differences.
What do pediatric dentists do?
A visit to a pediatric dentist early in a child’s life can set the stage for a lifetime of good oral habits that go way beyond brushing and flossing.
That said, pediatric dentists do everything they can to get their young patients – and their parents – off to a great start. Dentists for infants, children, and teens will:
- Complete oral health exams for infants
- Participate in “habit counseling”, which may include habits that affect the teeth, such as prolonged pacifier use or thumb sucking
- Talk to parents about preventive dental care, such as the need for regular cleanings. The pediatric dentist will talk about diet and
- Complete a caries risk assessment. Risk factors are the lifestyle and biochemical determinants that contribute to the development
and progression of the disease.
- Repair cavities or any other defects of the child’s teeth
- Assess the need in older children for orthodontics and refer parents to a skilled orthodontist who works well with children
- Assess any oral conditions that might be associated with diseases or disorders the child or teen may have, including asthma, diabetes, congenital heart defects, and others.
- Assess any oral problems that could be associated with medication(s) taken regularly by the child or teen.
- Assess your child’s dental growth and development
- Manage pediatric periodontal disease and other diseases and conditions of the gums.
- Manage any emergency or non-emergency dental injuries such as displaced teeth, fractured or broken teeth, or knocked-out teeth.
When should we visit our children’s dentist?
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the first time you should visit a pediatric dentist with your child is recommended that a child have his/her first dental visit within 6 months of getting their first tooth and no later than your child’s first birthday.
Why so early, you might wonder?
The first visit has multiple purposes and will be more of a consultation than an examination. At that time, pediatric dentists will chat with
parents about baby bottles and tooth decay, regularly cleaning the baby’s mouth, infant feeding practices including breastfeeding issues,
pacifier and thumb-sucking habits and how they affect teeth, and – of course – teething.
It’s a good idea to schedule your young child’s first dentist appointment – and any subsequent appointments – at a time of day when he/she is most cheerful and wide awake. If your child normally naps at noon, for example, don’t schedule the appointment for 11:30 a.m. A cranky child makes for an unpleasant first experience and that’s not ideal.
If your child is a little older and you’re able to hold a conversation with him/her, talk to that child about what to expect when they visit the
dentist. A general idea of what to expect helps the child stay calm and can even prompt them to be excited about the visit. Talk about the
positives that come from good oral health and let them know that the dentist can be trusted. If you have fears about dental work, be very
careful not to relay those to your child.
Once in the office, it’s also important for you – the parent – to remain upbeat and calm from that first visit onward. Even when there’s a
problem or emergency, trust that your pediatric dentist knows how to handle the situation and remain a calming presence for your child.
Kids are pretty perceptive and can pick up on your fear or stress, so try hard to stay composed.
How often should we see our pediatric dentist?
Like adults, children should see the dentist every 6 months for an examination and cleaning, when necessary. If there is a problem with
development or something else that has put your dentist on alert, he or she may recommend more frequent visits so that they can keep an eye on the issue.
The more you adhere to this schedule, the more comfortable your child will become with the person you’ve selected to be their dentist. That’s
why it’s a good idea to select a pediatric dentist you like and stick with that person, if possible, throughout your child’s growing-up years.
Your child and the dentist will develop a relationship of trust and, as a result, he/she won’t avoid dental care during adulthood.
How do you select a children’s dentist?
When you choose a pediatric dentist, just as with your own dentist or with your medical doctor, you want a professional whom you can trust and with whom you feel comfortable. Your ease with the dentist will help your child feel at ease as well.
Take time to ask about their training as well as their experience in working with infants and young children. Ask specific questions and address any concerns that might be on your mind. Also take time to meet the staff that works with the doctor and feel free to ask them
questions about procedure, etc.
Once you’ve selected your pediatric dentist, do them the courtesy of telling them a little about your child(ren) as well. Does your older child
already have dentist-related anxiety? Is your little one prone to being a little defiant or does he/she have tantrums? Is your child particularly
anxious with strangers? The more you know about each other, the more positive the experience will be for all involved.
We hope this information will help you as you choose a pediatric dentist and the advantages of good oral care for your child from the
early years into adulthood. At Anchorage Pediatric Dentistry, we are always happy to answer any questions about our services and about
your child’s oral health in general.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at (907) 562-1003 if you’d like to schedule an appointment or consult with our board certified pediatric
dentists. We can’t wait to hear from you, and we’re excited to help your child develop a healthy, beautiful, lifelong smile!