Helpful Pediatric Dentistry Tips!

Pediatric Dentists vs. Family Dentists

by Dr. Steve Whittemore, D.D.S. | Published August 31, 2021

What exactly is the difference between pediatric and family dentistry? Choose the one that is the best fit for your child.

Whether you are new to the area and looking for the right dentist, or your little one is finally big enough to start going to dental appointments…it is important to know your options. As you do your research, understanding the differences and similarities between both will help narrow down your decision.

Family Dentistry

With family dentistry comes the longevity of a lasting relationship between a child and their dentist. Their clientele is much more broad, serving patients all across the spectrum of age and walks of life. For some families, it is important for all members of the family to have a single primary provider in each medical field. That way, the provider becomes a familiar face and is especially aware of family medical history, making their practice more efficient and uniquely tailored to your family’s needs. 

Advantages of Choosing a Family Dentistry: 

  • You and your child can see the same provider
  • Can sometimes perform multiple specialties under one roof
  • Child and doctor build a rapport with one another as they grow into adulthood
  • Family dentists can still treat children, although without additional training that pediatric dentists provide

For procedures not done “in-house”, most family dentists work closely with area providers who specialize in other potential dentistry needs such as; wisdom teeth removal surgery, orthodontics, etc. These are important resources to have when your child grows and they begin to develop into their adult teeth. Your family dentist can work directly with you and your child to create a development plan based on your childs’ previous dental history, present and potential for the future. 

Pediatric Dentistry

With the same amount of schooling as your general dentist, pediatric dentists then take on an additional 2-3 years of training specializing in child psychology and development. This training is imperative for evaluating specific needs in children such as their worries and fears, or simply working with the energy of young patients. 

Advantages of Choosing Pediatric Dentistry:

  • All the expertise of a family dentist, plus 2-3 years of specialized training
  • Children-only clients
  • “Fun” office environment
  • Smaller, kid-friendly dental equipment
  • Extensive knowledge of childhood behavior and development
  • Better equipped to treat children with special needs

These dentists are skilled in treating children as small as infants all the way to older teenagers. You may wonder why infants may need to see a pediatric dentist…when there are in fact a couple of reasons to. Certain foods can affect a child’s oral health, but so do their habits! Use of a pacifier and thumb-sucking can be detrimental to oral development. Here, a pediatric dentist can develop a plan with a parent to break this habit and begin the path to increased oral health.

A part of their additional training includes helping those who have special needs. Going to medical appointments with a child who has special needs can be daunting and sometimes frustrating. But it doesn’t have to be. Pediatric dentists are skilled in taking the time to create a calming environment for you and your child.

It is important to keep in mind that your child’s fears and worries have a big impact on their relationship with their dentist. If they are fearful or have negative emotions towards something, the chances of them enjoying it are slim to none. Pediatric dental offices are designed with kids in mind, with all appointments and procedures specialized just for them. The relationship between a child and their pediatric dentist is based more on “fun” and going to appointments can become a breeze.

Which dentist is right for my child?

Like every parent, you want the best for your child…and in this case, you want the best dental care. Some next steps may be to set up appointments to visit both a family dentist and a pediatric dentist. In doing so you can evaluate how comfortable your child is with either one and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of both. 

When you go to your appointment, take note of how your child interacts with the dentist. Do interactions come easily, or are they strained? Notice the surroundings…are they making an impact on your child’s behavior? Sights, sounds, and smells make a noticeable difference in how children behave in the environment.

When you leave your appointment, did it make a lasting impression? Does your child seem excited about the potential of a future one? 

Every child is different and what might work for one, may not work for another….and that’s okay! Dentists all across the world work to promote oral health for everyone, so whatever you may choose…their ultimate goal will be the same. 

Still a little unsure on what to choose? Check out this past blog for more information to see if pediatric dentistry is the right fit!

Set a Dental Appointment for Your Child

The Pediatric Dentistry of Central Iowa is now accepting new patients at both our Ankeny and West Des Moines locations! Contact us to get on the schedule today.


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