A pediatric dentist specializes in oral care for children from birth through the teenage years. In addition to four years of dental school, dentists wishing to focus on pediatric care must complete a two-year residency focusing on a variety of topics, including advanced diagnostics and surgical procedures, child development, oral pathology, management of the child patient and caring for special needs patients, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD).
Why Choose a Pediatric Dental Practice?
If your child is fearful or anxious about dental care visits, pediatric dentists will generally be more capable of handling oral care in that situation. Parents of children with unusual or significant dental issues should also seek out a pediatric dentist due to their additional training in children's oral care and management of the child patient. Pediatric dental offices also invest in equipment and decorations geared towards children to provide a more relaxed, friendly environment. Pediatric dentists also tend to spend more time educating parents on how to care for their children's teeth and working closely with their young patients to demonstrate proper brushing and flossing technique.
Where Can I Find a Good Pediatric Dental Practice?
If you are in search of a pediatric dentist in your area, you may first want to ask your pediatrician for a referral. Pediatricians familiar with your child's overall health should be able to suggest a pediatric dental practice that best meets your family's needs. Another resource is to check the dental schools in your area offering pediatric residencies. You could also visit your dental insurance or employee benefits website for the pediatric dental providers covered by your health plan. Most dental plans cover two routine dental care visits per year for children. Last, asking for referrals from other parents is a good way to find out about pediatric dental practices in your local area.
Questions to Ask Before Your Child's First Visit
In order to set expectations for your children before visiting a new pediatric dental practice, you may want to inquire about certain office policies and procedures. One question to ask is whether parents are permitted to accompany children during exams. If the option is left to the child, you may prefer to see how your child does on his own instead of assuming you will be going with them. Once your child enters the pediatric office, meets the staff and has time to become familiar with the child-friendly layout and waiting room activities, he may feel brave enough to separate from you for the check-up portion of the visit.
Another question you may want to ask concerns the frequency of dental X-rays. Maintain an independent record of when X-rays were taken, and check with your insurance company about reimbursement policies. Lastly, it's a good idea to ask how far in advance you need to schedule a routine appointment and whether Saturday and evening hours are available.
Finding a pediatric dentist and establishing a positive relationship with your child's oral care provider is an important step in early dental care. Taking the time to find the best pediatric dental practice for your family will help to ensure that your child is getting the proper dental care from an early age.