Children see pediatricians for their general health needs, so it’s normal to wonder if your child needs to see a pediatric dentist as well.
The Academy of General Dentistry recommends taking your child to the dentist for the first time six months after that first tooth makes an appearance, assuming everything else is normal.
How Are Pediatric Dentists Different?
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, pediatric dentists have completed at least two years of additional training in working with children and dealing with child-specific dental issues above the normal education and training all board-certified dentists complete.
These dentists also see young patients as the norm rather than the exception and are set up specifically to cater to children and make them feel more comfortable.
Who Do Pediatric Dentists Treat?
If there are no complications and your child has seen your family dentist from a young age, he will probably be just fine to continue normal preventative care there. Taking your child to the dentist early on allows the practitioner and office staff to develop a rapport with your child, and she also gets to experience going to the dentist office when nothing is wrong.
Going in, having a dental hygienist touch all their teeth and getting a goodie bag afterward can help children ease into dental care and see it as a positive experience. If your child’s first dental experience involves getting a filling, he is more likely to create a negative association.
Children who are very sensitive, get frightened easily or have special needs may be better served at a pediatric dentist office where the entire atmosphere is designed to be as kid-friendly as possible. The waiting rooms usually have more toys, and the cheerful decor can help children feel more at ease. Pediatric dentists also have more experience dealing with children on a daily basis and may be more patient with children who need extra time to get comfortable or need to take frequent breaks.
Cleanings and the occasional cavity can normally be treated at your regular dentist without issue, but if your child needs extensive dental work or is already frightened of the dentist, a pediatric dentist may be a better option.
These offices may have special dental tools that looks like animals or other kid-friendly objects to make the poking and prodding a little less scary. Some practices may also have TVs mounted overhead so your child can watch a favorite program as a distraction during longer procedures. Pediatric dentists are also usually preferred for any type of dental procedure that requires your child to undergo general anesthetic.
How Do I Get a Referral?
In most cases, you can make an appointment directly with a pediatric dentist without needing a referral. However, some insurance plans designate this as a specialist visit and may require a referral. Either your regular family dentist or your child’s pediatrician should be able to provide a referral and can also help answer any questions you may have about whether a pediatric dentist is needed and what to expect. You can also use ChooseYourDentist.com to compare and choose the right pediatric dentist in your area.