The American Dental Association recommends having your child see a dentist within six months of the eruption of his or her first tooth and then scheduling regular appointments after that. Unfortunately, while you might have a vested interest in making sure your little one has clean, healthy teeth, the dentist office can be a scary place for kids. By opting for a pediatric dentist, you can help calm some of those fears with a fun atmosphere and a dentist who specializes in working with children. If you're in the market for a dentist for kids, make sure that you do your homework and choose one that works for you and your family.
1. Ask Around
One of the best ways to find out about pediatric dentists in your area is to ask around. Whether it's the other Moms in your playgroup or family members who have visited a pediatric dentist in the past, other parents will be glad to give you their opinions and recommendations, which makes for a great place to start. While you'll still need to research and visit offices, knowing whom your acquaintances did and didn't like can set you on the right path.
2. Utilize the AAPD
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) offers a dentist directory on its website. Dentists included in the directory are certified by the AAPD, so you can check for some of your friends' recommendations and discover other pediatric dentists in your area that you want to check out before making your final decision.
3. Call the Office
Pick three or four pediatric dentists who you think might be a good fit for you and your family and pick up the phone. The receptionist at each office should be able to give you a clear idea of the practices and policies at the office. You'll need a list of questions to ask. Here are some to think about:
- What is the dentist's policy on allowing parents to stay with their children during appointments?
- What will happen at the first visit?
- What special features and amenities are in place to help kids feel calm?
- Does the dentist use any type of numbing or sedation, and what is it used for?
- Does the office have emergency hours?
If you're comfortable with the answers given, it's time to schedule an office tour.
4. Schedule a Tour
If possible, see if you can coordinate a time at which you and your child can visit the office without a full dental checkup, as suggested by the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. This serves two purposes: It gives you an idea of which dentist's office is right for you and also helps get your little one acquainted with the sights, sounds and smells of the office before the first appointment. Look for some of the key ingredients to a great dentist for kids, such as a child-centric office filled with color, toys in the waiting room and perhaps televisions in the examination rooms.
5. Watch Interactions during the First Visit
Once you've finally settled on the dentist that you like the best, it's time to schedule your child's first appointment. While there, watch the way the dentist interacts with your little ones. According to The Center for Pediatric Dentistry, a good pediatric dentist utilizes the "Tell-Show-Do" technique when it comes to introducing new tools: He first talks about the tool, shows it to the child and might even demonstrate it on a model before actually using it. He could also give your child rewards for being a good patient, such as a small toy or a tube of My First Colgate ™ toothpaste.
A visit to the dentist can be a bit nerve-wracking the first time — for both parents and children. But if you take your time and do your homework, you can find a pediatric dentist who really makes your child feel comfortable in the dentist's chair, thus starting an entire lifetime of good dental hygiene and relationships with those who care for his or her teeth.