If you’re waiting for an emergency to take your child to a dentist, you’re making a big mistake. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children should visit a dentist when their first tooth comes in or by their first birthday. Getting regular dental care with a pediatric dentist ensures your child maintains a healthy smile as she grows and all those ugly emergencies are kept at bay.
However, choosing the right dentist for your child can get taxing especially if your child is anxious about dental procedures. You need to find someone she is comfortable working with. Here is what you should look for when narrowing your search down for a pediatric dentist your child will partner with for the long term.
Dental Qualifications and Training
Pediatric dentists complete two to three years of training beyond dental school and they are well versed in child psychology, growth, and development. Consider whether the dentist has had the proper training to work with kids and how experienced they are. Make sure the dentist is a member of the American Dental Association or the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
Office Location and Office Hours
When your child gets a toothache, you’ll find the close-by office location a huge plus. When considering the location of the dentist, consider your own needs first. How important is it for you to find someone who is located close by? Is everyday convenience your top priority, considering your own work schedule?
Besides location, it’s also important to make sure the dentist works at the hours convenient for you so you can easily and comfortably schedule appointments for your child.
Your Kid’s Comfort
Your kid’s comfort should be your top priority if you want to make your child’s dental visits less intimidating and more enjoyable. Look for a dentist who is patient and compassionate and is extremely good at working with children. Make sure they are friendly and understand the anxieties and fears of your child regarding dental procedures.
When you shortlist a dentist, meet her in person and see how she examines your child. Was the dentist gentle but thorough when examining your child’s mouth? How did the dentist handle your child’s reactions? Did she talk to your child to get her involved in dental health?
These pointers will help you find the dentist who is the right fit for your child.
Most pediatric dentists have kid-friendly offices, which usually mean a waiting room filled with kid-size play equipment, video games, lots of toys and books. You should also expect a cheerful and welcoming staff who is ready to answer your queries and concerns.
Another thing you should particularly ask is whether the office has any policy regarding parents staying with the child during visits. Some offices require parents accompanying their children during visits while others prefer children returning for treatments on their own with the goal of developing a sense of trust. See if the office policy makes you and your child comfortable.
It might also be a good idea to consider their policies regarding emergencies. Do they work during off hours? Do they give you some contact information for contacting them during off hours or weekends? Many practices offer an answering service for emergency situations, which might be quite helpful.
The costs of dental procedures can be pretty cumbersome so make sure the dentist accepts your insurance plan. And even if they accept insurance take a general idea about their costs as you’ll be paying part of the costs yourself. Also ask what payment options they offer. Is it only cash or do they accept credit cards as well?
Type of Sedation Provided
What type of sedatives does the dentist offer during dental procedures? This is a crucial thing to ask.
Pediatric dentists are qualified and licensed to offer:
- Oral medication: The dentist uses an oral medication to relax the child but not render him/her unconscious.
- Local anesthetics: A local anesthetic may be injected into a particular part of your child’s mouth and prevent discomfort. It causes temporary numbness that may last past the visit.
- Nitrous oxide: It’s the safest sedative in dentistry that reduces anxiety and gagging in children, making long appointments easier.
- General anesthesia: It is usually only provided in a hospital setting and is offered to patients with special needs.
Where to Look
The next step to finding the right dentist for your child is to start looking for them in the right places. One way is to get a recommendation from your family doctor, your own dentist, your child’s pediatrician, or other parents you know. You can get some good names by just asking around.
Alternatively, you can search in online directories to find the best pediatric dentists practicing in your area. Look for reviews left by patients and see what experiences other people have had. When you narrow your search down to a few names, visit the office and meet the dentist in person to get a feel of the kind of personality they have and see if your child feels comfortable with them.
Remember, your child’s dentist will be her long term oral health partner. So, take your time and choose one with care.