Helpful Pediatric Dentistry Tips!

How to Pick the Best Dentist for Your Child

by Dr. Steve Whittemore, D.D.S. | Published October 26, 2021

As soon as your child starts cutting their first teeth or is at least six months old (whichever comes first), it’s a good idea to start looking for a trustworthy pediatric dentist who can see your child and answer your questions about their dental health. If you’re a new parent or have recently moved to a new area, you may feel overwhelmed with options and unsure about what to look for in a new dentist. Here are some guidelines to help you research pediatric dentists in your area and narrow down your options to find a dentist you trust to take care of your kid’s dental health.

What is a pediatric dentist?

A pediatric dentist is a dentist who specializes in treating patients from birth through adolescence. Yes, even your older kids and teenagers can see a pediatric dentist! Especially if your child has anxiety about dentist visits, it may be beneficial for them to see a pediatric dentist through their teen years.

Look for offices and dentists with education in pediatric dentistry specifically

Good pediatric dentists have not only the schooling and qualifications of a normal dentist, but also complete additional education specifically related to treating children. It’s completely possible and legal for regular qualified dentists to see young patients, but most parents find that working with a dentist with training and experience in patients under 18 puts their mind at ease and gives their kids a better experience. If you aren’t sure about a dentist’s qualifications, call their office to ask about their education specifically related to pediatrics—pediatric dentists generally have about 2-3 years of additional training beyond dental school.

Since a person’s dental health is not only important for their teeth, but also their overall health (poor oral hygiene has been connected to conditions like heart disease), it’s crucial to set your children up for regular dental visits throughout their life. Since they’re much more likely to continue good dental habits if they have a good experience at the dentist, choosing a pediatric dentist who can put them at ease is important.

Building a relationship with a pediatric dentist your child trusts also makes it easier to visit in the event of a dental emergency without the added stress of visiting a dental office you don’t know anything about. 

Find a helpful dentist willing to answer your questions

Pediatric dentists are used to handling nervous questions from adults and children alike, so talking with the dentist you’re considering prior to your child’s first cleaning can help you gauge their engagement with you and your child. It’s totally normal to feel nervous as a parent bringing your child to the dentist for the first time, and pediatric dentists are patient and open to answering any questions that can help put you at ease.

From questions about dental insurance plans they accept to walking parents through what to expect from their child’s dental visit, a good pediatric dentist is happy to engage with you and give you what you need to feel comfortable. If the dentist you’re considering seems averse to answering questions and sitting down to talk through your concerns, they may not be the right fit for you and your child.

Ask how they handle anxiety and fear of dental work in children

Some adults even experience anxiety about going to dental visits, so it’s no surprise that children can be especially worried or scared, especially if they don’t know what to expect. Pediatric dentists are trained in dealing with the heightened emotions children experience at the dentist, so ask them how they handle children who are worried or upset during their visit! Most dentists have protocols to explain dental procedures and equipment in an unintimidating way so that kids know that what happens at their visit is normal, even if it’s something new to them.

Dental care for children with special needs

Pediatric dentists can be especially helpful and reassuring if your child has special needs, whether they are mental or physical. If you have special concerns about how your child will handle a dental visit, let the dentists you are researching know and see what their experience level is with children who need special accommodations to have a comfortable visit.

Ask other parents about their kids’ experiences at the dentist

If you know other parents with young children, it’s worth asking them what their children’s experiences have been like at the dentist. They may have recommendations for questions to ask any dentists you are considering or referrals for dentists nearby that their kids have had a good experience with. Knowing that other parents are experiencing the same anxiety you are about choosing the best dentist for your kids is reassuring, and can lead you to make informed decisions on a dental provider!

Look for dentists near where you live or take your child to school

Whether your child is in school or daycare, finding a dentist with a convenient location will make regular preventative dental care a lot easier. Check out dentists who have locations that won’t create a long commute for you and your child, making it easier for you to pick them up and drop them back off at school. Dentists with multiple locations are worth looking into as well—if you work and live in different parts of town, your dentist may be able to accommodate you at either location, depending on your needs.

If you have questions about getting your child set up with a new dental provider, contact us! Pediatric Dentistry of Central Iowa has two conveniently placed locations in Ankeny and Des Moines, and we’ve specialized in providing pediatric dental care since 1975. We’d be happy to answer your questions about how we can help make your child’s visit with us a good one. 

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