Protecting your child’s oral health is an important job. As a parent, you’ll want to enlist some help. A pediatric dentist is a valuable partner in childhood dental care. Here’s a complete look at what pediatric dentistry is, and how to find (and afford) the best pediatric dentist near you:
What is a Pediatric Dentist?
Pediatric dentists specialize in the oral health care of children from birth through the age of 18. These dental specialists handle all the same common issues as a traditional dentist, but they’ve also received additional training related to kids’ unique dental needs. Plus, pediatric dentists understand how to make dental visits fun, and not frightening, for little ones.
Your child’s first dental visit should occur shortly after their first tooth appears or after their first birthday. Typically, you and your child will visit their pediatric dentist twice a year for a checkup and cleaning – although more frequent visits might be needed if any type of dental problem develops. Ideally, you’ll want to stay with the same pediatric dentist for as many years as possible. Childhood is a time filled with dental changes, so a dentist able to track these changes year after year is a huge benefit.
What Dental Issues Do Pediatric Dentists Treat?
- Preventative Care: As with a general dentist, pediatric dentists want to prevent dental problems from developing. Pediatric dentists perform cleanings, checkups and other preventative care. X-rays will be taken each year, which allows the dentist to monitor the position of teeth underneath the gums. Additionally, dental sealants are often applied to young teeth, as a barrier against harmful build-up.
- Minor and Major Dental Problems: Pediatric dentists fill cavities, perform root canals, repair broken teeth and handle most standard dental problems. Pediatric dentists are qualified to use anesthesia and prescribe medications. They can also handle emergency dental problems like a knocked-out tooth.
- Orthodontics and Oral Surgery: Pediatric dentists do not perform orthodontic work or complicated oral surgeries. Instead, they’re trained to identify when a developing oral health issue should be referred to an orthodontist, oral surgeon or other dental specialist. A pediatric dentist will carefully monitor all emerging teeth to ensure proper positioning. As primary teeth began to be replaced by permanent ones, a pediatric dentist will make sure these adult teeth emerge in the proper position. If any potential problems are identified, the pediatric dentist will recommend an evaluation from an orthodontist, who specializes in tooth and bite positioning issues.
Oral Health Education for Kids and Parents
Pediatric dentists typically place a lot of emphasis on dental education. After all, most of their patients are new to the idea of dental care. A pediatric dentist will focus on teaching kids and their parents how to properly brush, floss and more. Many dental problems can be prevented by daily brushing, flossing and other relatively simple techniques. A pediatric dentist helps parents develop strategies for every stage of a child’s dental development.
What Special Training Do Pediatric Dentists Have?
All pediatric dentists have the same training as any traditional dentist, plus a little bit more. After earning a bachelor’s degree, usually in a scientific field, aspiring pediatric dentists must then earn a doctoral degree from a four-year accredited dental school to become a general dentist. Next, the newly minted general dentist must undergo two years of pediatric dental training. Coursework includes both technical instruction about childhood oral health as well as training in how to interact, comfort and educate both children and parents.
Pediatric dentistry is one of nine dental specialties officially recognized by the American Dental Association. Each state has individual licensing requirements for pediatric dentists, usually involving certain education requirements as well as both written and practical exams. Almost all pediatric dentists also choose to be certified by the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry, a process with additional education and testing requirements.
How Do I Find the Best Pediatric Dentist?
You want a pediatric dentist with up-to-date knowledge of children’s dental needs and who is also great with kids.
Any general dentist can call themselves a “family dentist.” But only a pediatric dentist has completed additional training specific to childhood dental needs. Make sure the dentist you choose has been certified by both the state licensing board and the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry.
Also, only choose a dentist who your child seems comfortable with. Most pediatric dentists will offer a free consultation, which gives you and your child a chance to meet the dentist and check out the office. Is the experience comfortable and welcoming? Is the dentist patient and knowledgeable? Ideally, you’ll be visiting this dentist for many years, so choose someone who is friendly and personable.
Is a Pediatric Dentist More Expensive than a Regular Dentist?
Not necessarily. Dental costs can vary significantly from area to area and even dentist to dentist. A visit to a pediatric dentist could cost a bit more than a visit with a general dentist. However, pediatric dentists can also save you money in the long run. Due to their specialized expertise, they’re able to identify potential problems in the very early stages, when treatments are far simpler and more affordable.
Another way to save on children’s dental care is with a dental discount plan. An alternative to dental insurance, dental discount plans helps reduce your dental bills between 10% and 60%. Savings are available on a wide range of procedures including checkups, cleanings, fillings, root canals and much more. Over 100,000 dental professionals across the country accept dental discount plans, including many different pediatric dentists, orthodontists, oral surgeons and more. Flexible and with no annual limits on use, dental discount plans can help make all aspects of childhood dental care more affordable.
A pediatric dentist is often the perfect partner for parents, able to treat and prevent dental problems while also providing patient-specific care information. Only pediatric dentists will have the most complete information on childhood tooth development. Plus, they’re able to make a visit to the dentist fun instead of frightening. A lifetime of healthy teeth starts with quality childhood dental care, so be sure to enlist the help of a pediatric dentist.