All parents, new or experienced, want what is best for their kids. They often do a lot of research and take great care to find the right pediatrician. But many don’t think about their child’s dental care in the same way. Is there such a thing as “just for kids” dental service?
There are pediatric dental practices that only treat children. But many family dentists are kid-friendly too. Whether it is better for your child to see a dentist who is just for kids is a decision that will be different for each child.
How Young is Too Young for the Dentist?
First, many may wonder why they would even need to take their toddler to a dentist. It may not seem necessary since the few baby teeth they have will fall out and be replaced by adult teeth anyway.
But decay and cavities can occur in baby teeth too. In fact, according to this Dental Health Society article, 42% of children aged 2 to 11 have dental carries in their primary teeth. Even more concerning, 23% of those children’s cavities will go untreated, causing more serious issues for them later. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests that children should have their first visit by their first birthday or within six months of their first tooth.
Besides checking for cavities, starting dental visits early is very important for other reasons. A dentist will keep an eye on the teeth and gums to make sure they are developing normally. He or she can also address common questions that parents have about pacifiers and thumb sucking. And, unfortunately, accidents happen and baby teeth can chip or break and need repairs.
Most importantly, visits to the dentist early in a child’s life will help promote proper brushing and flossing habits. Learning good oral hygiene will set kids up for a future of good dental health.
What is a Pediatric Dentist?
If you are looking for a dentist who is just for kids, you will come across pediatric dentists. Pediatric dentists go through the same training as any other dentist. In addition to regular dental school, they go through two to three years of extra courses to specialize in treating children.
Many pediatric dental practices do not see adult patients. Instead, they focus on children from the time of their first visit until they are teenagers. They may use dental tools geared toward kids’ smaller mouths. The office environment will often have kid-friendly décor with bright colors and fun elements.
Their focus is on making kids comfortable, soothing their fears, and making a visit to the dentist a positive experience. This can be particularly important if your child has special needs or is on the Autism spectrum. (If this is your situation, the article titled How to Find a Dentist for a Child Who is “On the Spectrum” for Autism is helpful.)
Since their job is to deal with children all day, the staff at pediatric dentist offices are ready for issues specific to their young patients. They will be sensitive to children who are fearful of the dentist. They know the best ways to encourage kids to sit still through procedures.
Our article Does My Kid Need a Pediatric Dentist? can help you decide if this is the right option for your child.
Can’t I Take My Child to My Dentist?
In most cases, you can. There are some dentists who do not treat children, but most general dentists call themselves “family dentists.” They are not just for kids, but they will see your entire family, no matter what their age. Like a pediatrician, some pediatric dentists have an age limit for their patients. If your child goes to your family dentist, he or she can continue to see them into adulthood.
A family dentist goes through dental school just like a pediatric dentist but has chosen not to specialize in any particular field. Many family dentistry practices are kid-friendly and have success with young patients. If you like your dentist and have a good relationship with him or her, chances are your child will too.
The convenience of taking all members of your family to one family dentist might be a reason to choose your family dentist over a pediatric dentist. Another might be cost. It may prove to be more economical to have your child see your family dentist. This article about Saving on Dental Care can help with your decision.
Finding a Good Fit for Your Child
When choosing dental care for your young child, there are other factors to consider besides if a dentist is just for kids. You must ask if the dentist is a good fit for your kid.
You know your child better than anyone. You know what they are afraid of and if they are fidgety or impatient.
You will want to look for someone who is friendly and gets to know your child. Kid-friendly dentists are good at explaining things so a child can understand. They will make them feel comfortable and not afraid.
The article 5 Tips for Finding a Kid-Friendly Dentist will give you some help in finding one that’s right for you.
The Most Important Thing
Whether you choose to take your child to your family dentist or a pediatric dentist just for kids, the most important thing is that they get proper dental care. Starting visits to the dentist early, and keeping them up throughout childhood, will help promote a healthy smile for the rest of their lives.