Fear of the dentist is a common experience among most kids. The choices you make for their oral care now will affect how they view the pediatric dentist as they grow older. It will also determine their willingness to submit to regular dental hygiene appointments without a fuss at each visit. A decision this important is worth taking your time to ensure you choose a practitioner who’s a good fit.
1. Decide Between Pediatric or Family Dentistry
Your first step is to decide between a pediatric dentist or a family practice. If you already have a regular dentist, there’s no reason you can’t schedule your child there. However, pediatric dentists undergo extra schooling designed to prepare them for the challenges a younger patient brings. They may be better equipped to deal with your young one’s fears.
Depending on your child’s age, you could bring them to watch your routine cleaning. See how they react to the office and interact with your dentist. Also, carefully observe your dentist to see how they act around your kid. Do they explain things as they go? Are they willing to answer the stream of questions? Their interactions will help you gauge if choosing a pediatric dentist would be a better option.
2. Get Recommendations and Reviews
Knowing where to start when looking for a pediatric dentist can be challenging. The easiest method is to let your friends and family know you’re on the hunt. Ask for recommendations about any pediatric dentist within driving distance from your home. You could also ask for possibilities from your child’s daycare or school. They may have professionals on file that other families have used and loved — you never know unless you ask.
The internet is another excellent resource for finding the best pediatric dentist. You can find reviews on Google, Yelp, Facebook and many other sources. Look for an office and professional who meets your specific criteria and would be a good fit for your child. Steer clear of any business with too many negative reviews or several recent bad ones.
3. Check Credentials and Experience
A pediatric dentist should have experience and education beyond a typical family dentist. They should have practiced dealing with children afraid of getting their teeth cleaned. The last thing you want is for your child to become one of the 5%-8% of Americans who avoid the dentist, so you’ll want to choose someone who will put them at ease.
The best pediatric dentist will also be a member of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. They may also have other specializations which make them even more qualified to fit your needs.
4. Match Offices Criteria
Now that you have a handful of great-looking options, it’s time to narrow them down further. Create a list of criteria that are important to you as a medical professional. Do you want someone within a certain driving distance? Do you or your child have a gender preference that makes you more comfortable? Do you need an office that offers weekend or evening appointments? Take all these items into consideration and see how your possibilities stack up.
Remember that you likely won’t find a single practice that checks every item off your list. Like with everything else in life, you’ll have to compromise. Decide the factors that are essential to you and those you can deal with.
5. Scope Out the Office
A pediatric dentist’s office should exude a more childlike atmosphere. You can check Google images or look for virtual tours on the dentist’s website. However, there’s no substitute for an in-person visit.
Once you’ve narrowed your options, schedule a consultation to winnow them further. While there, observe every bit of the office. Are the colors bright and fun? Do they have kids’ music or TV playing? Are all the staff good with children? What perks do they offer to make the visit more enjoyable for little ones? The best pediatric dentist offices will cater well to their younger clientele.
6. Ask About Anxiety Measures
Besides a child-friendly atmosphere, a good pediatric dentist should also have a toolbox of tricks and anxiety busters. Every professional will have their own methods. At the very least, they should engage with your child. A pediatric dentist should demonstrate and introduce each tool before using it. Asking simple questions is another good strategy — and a prize box never hurts.
7. Observe Interactions and Demeanor
Even the best pediatric dentist may not be the right fit for your child. The relationship between the two is essential for future positive interactions. If your kids and the dentist don’t mesh from the start, you may want to look elsewhere for dental services.
During the initial consultation, watch your child’s body language to gauge their feelings about being there. Listen to the questions they ask and the comments they make. Ascertain whether their nervous reaction is due to being at the dentist in general or interacting with this one.
You should also keep an eye on the dentist’s comfort level with your child. Is conversation easy or a challenge? Do they have anything in common? These questions will help you know how to choose a pediatric dentist that’s perfect for your kid.
8. Review Services Offered
Not all dentists’ offices offer the same services. In general, your child should be able to get cleaning and fillings at the same location. However, if you want to travel less, you may want to find a place that also offers orthodontics. Then you’re covered later if your child needs braces or other work done.
You should also ask about the preventive services they offer. Some pediatric dentists firmly believe in these measures, while others prefer to wait and see. Tooth decay is common in kids, so you want someone willing to act now. You can gauge which type each dentist is by asking about supplemental fluoride treatments and dental sealants.
Finding the Best Pediatric Dentist Is Subjective
Every child and family’s needs differ, so finding the best pediatric dentist or family practice is highly subjective. Do your research to see the benefits and drawbacks of each office and practitioner. You’ll also want to schedule consultations with a few so you can ask further questions and gauge how your child reacts to each one. That way, you’ll find the perfect fit for your child.