Dental exams and procedures can be pretty invasive for little kids. Help your child have the best experience with healthy mouth care when you choose the right pediatric dentist.
Where to Look
Finding a great local dentist for your kids doesn't have to be a chore. Take advantage of the many resources around you to find the best options.
Ask for Recommendations
Other parents, friends, and family members in your area are an ideal resource. They'll give you their honest opinions, good and bad, on what kinds of dental options you have. If you don't know anyone in your area, ask your child's teacher or school for suggestions.
Other Medical Professionals
If your kids already see a pediatrician or family doctor, that person may have great advice on where to get the best dental care. Your child's pediatrician may also be affiliated with other specialist practices, like dentists. Inquire at your child's next appointment or call up the receptionist and ask for local references and resources.
While your child doesn't need to see a pediatric dentist, it can be more helpful because they are trained and experienced in working with kids of all ages. Pediatric Dentist Dr. Ngo shares that professionals in this field are required to take two or three years of additional training, so they can work with children. Their offices typically feature lots of toys to keep kids' minds occupied and fun murals like under the sea or jungle themes to make the environment more appealing. Check out these websites with search tools to help you find a pediatric dentist near you.
- Type in your ZIP code and preferred distance from home to find a local dentist with the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) search tool.
- Use the search function at Dentists4Kids.com to find an office in your town or state then browse the results for contact information and details.
- Families using Medicaid or CHIP insurance for their kids can find providers who see children at InsureKidsNow.gov.
- If you don't have any great dentists for children in your area, partner up with the local elementary school to request a visit from a mobile kid's dental van like the Colgate Bright Smiles Bright Futures dental van.
How to Choose
Once you've gathered the names and numbers of a few good options, give them each a call or visit. Keep track of pros and cons at each, then compare your notes and ask your child to help choose one.
When You're Ready
The AAPD suggests kids start seeing a dentist regularly once their first baby teeth emerge above the gumline. Another milestone to go by is age, with the recommendation being to find a dentist at age one.
You can learn a lot from a phone call like how friendly and helpful the receptionist is or how easy/hard it is to get a hold of them. However, you'll learn even more by dropping in to ask questions. Make an appointment just for this purpose. If possible, stop by without your kids in tow, and take note of these key points.
- Are there children's toys, magazines, books, or posters in the waiting area.
- Does it look friendly or scary from the outside? Does the waiting area feel too crowded, or too empty?
- Were you and your child greeted in a friendly, inviting way?
- Was the receptionist happy to help or frazzled and overwhelmed?
- Do you and the dentist have any major disagreements on treatments (use of fluoride treatments for example)?
- What are standard procedures in the office and what does a typical office visit look like?
If you and your kids had a pleasant experience, keep the location on your list. If it was a struggle to get the kids in the door and wrangle any information from the staff, cross it off.
Make an Initial Appointment
Some offices allow you to make a consultation appointment where no real work is done, just talking. This gives you and your kids a chance to feel out the actual dentist and other staff members before committing to becoming a patient. If the office doesn't do consultations, you could schedule a basic cleaning. During this first appointment be sure to ask deeper questions such as:
- Is there an age cutoff when kids can no longer be served? If so, what does that process look like?
- What services can be done in the office? Do they do oral surgeries like wisdom teeth removal or orthodontics?
- Do they have modern equipment like noninvasive x-ray machines?
- Are they able to handle dental emergencies?
- Can your child request the same dental hygienist for every appointment?
Healthy Smile, Healthy Child
Although kids will lose their baby teeth, they still need proper dental care to ensure great oral health. Help your child learn to love dental visits by finding a dentist office that fits their needs and personality.