Looking for a dentist for you and your family can have you feeling like Goldilocks. You might feel that pediatric dentists are too specific. And general dentists are too—well—general. A family dentist, on the other hand, might be just right for your situation.
How is family dentistry different? Family dentists treat patients of any age and with almost any dental health issue. In other words, they take care of the whole family.
Understanding All Those Titles: DDS, DMD, Pediatric, Family
After college, all dentists must complete four additional years in dental school. Some schools award graduates a degree as a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), while others use the term Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD). The difference is in name only, as both degrees share the same curriculum.
Once a dentist earns their credentials, they are considered a general dentist. General dentists provide comprehensive oral care to most patients. Some, however, choose not to treat children, especially those younger than two years old.
Pediatric dentists are at the other end of the spectrum. They complete additional years of specialized training after dental school in the dental needs of children. Pediatric dentists operate practices that are just for kids and do not accept patients over the age of 18.
Family dentistry does not require a special certificate. Family dentists do, however, have some training in treating children. They are general dentists who extend their services to all ages—caring for everyone in the family.
A Variety of Dental Services
Family dentists are prepared to provide patients with a variety of dental care services. Because of the wide range in ages they treat, the list can be extensive. Some of the things you will find at most family dental practices are:
- Dental hygiene and preventative care
- Exams and X Rays
- Cavity filling, crowns, and root canal procedures
- Orthodontic assessments or teeth alignment products
- Gum care
- Cosmetic whitening and veneers
- Dentures and bridges
Many practices employee multiple dental professionals to cover several different areas of expertise. If, for example, a patient needs an orthodontist, endodontist, or oral surgeon, one might be available at the family dentist’s location. If not, family dentists have trusted professionals where they can refer their patients.
Family Dentistry for Young Children
Primary teeth (baby teeth) are not just placeholders until adult teeth grow in. Taking care of them is important to a child’s mouth development and future dental health. It is recommended that toddlers have a dental exam within six months of their first tooth coming in.
Family dentists have been trained to see children, and are a practical alternative to a pediatric dentist. They are often more affordable since they are not specialists like pediatric dentists. They will also continue to treat your child as he or she gets older.
A family dentist can address issues that are specific to small children. They can monitor the child’s growth and development as they learn to chew and talk. They can offer parents help in encouraging good habits like brushing and flossing while discouraging bad habits like thumb sucking.
Starting dental visits early will familiarize a child with the family dentist and prepare them for routine cleanings and checkups as they grow. The dentist can also offer preventative measures like dental sealants to keep their young patients’ mouths healthy.
Family Dentistry for Teenagers
When kids see a family dentist, they can continue on seeing them into their teenage years—something that may not be possible with a pediatric dentist. After years of care, family dentists have the advantage of knowing their patients well.
The family dentist will notice misalignments and malocclusions and be able to refer children to an orthodontist for braces. If the child is over the age of 12, they may be a candidate for Invisalign to straighten their teeth instead. Many family dentists provide Invisalign or other alignment tray products, eliminating the need to see an orthodontist at all.
Family Dentistry for Adults
Family dentists can continue to care for patients into adulthood. Cavities aren’t just for kids, and the family dentist can fill them if they occur. Other issues that might affect adult teeth are more advanced tooth decay or gum disease. Adults may have to face root canal procedures or periodontal scaling and root planing for the first time. Unless there are complications, they can have these procedures done at the family dental practice rather than seeing a separate endodontist or periodontist.
Adult patients are also more likely to see dentists for cosmetic requests. Teeth whitening is popular as teeth become dull with age. And like teens, they may want Invisalign to correct crooked teeth.
Family Dentistry for Older Adults
As people age, various health problems can make them more susceptible to oral health issues. For example, diabetes can make a person more prone to gum disease. And low bone density can make tooth loss more common.
Family dentists can see to the needs of older adults, just as they do for all other ages. Regular checkups are important, as always. In addition, they can address the need for dental bridges and dentures when necessary.
The Advantages of Family Dentists
How is family dentistry different? A family dentist can see to the needs of everyone in the family, including very young children. There are several reasons why a patient might prefer to have one, primary family dentist.
- Convenience. When you have one office to visit, rather than several different dental offices for various members of the family, you save time. Scheduling everyone’s appointments together is sure to make a busy family’s life easier.
- Familiarity. Seeing the same family dentist from the first-ever visit, on through childhood gives kids a sense of comfort. The fact that the dentist also treats Mom, Dad, and their siblings can form a bond.
- Cost. Specialists typically charge more for their services, so a family dentist could be a more economical choice. Billing and payments with one practice for the whole family, especially when insurance is involved, can make things much easier too.
Finding the best dental care for each and every member of the family is important. Family dentistry can be the answer. To find a dentist in your area, use our online search tool.