Who needs a pediatric dentist? And when?
© 2013 Roy Benaroch, MD
Tanya asked, “Should I take my kids to a pediatric dentist?”
Maybe, maybe not. Children do need a dentist who’s sensitive and good with children—but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be a pediatric-only dentist (or “pediadontist”.) Many family dentists do a great job with everyone. I think it’s fine if parents take their kids to their own dentists, as long as the dentist is comfortable and good with children.
How can you tell? Ask. I think most dentists who prefer not to see children will tell you that, right up front. If your dentist says, “Well, we rarely see kids here” that tells you something. You should also look around the office and waiting room. If there are no kid-friendly toys or murals about, chances are children rarely go there. Do all the magazines feature Oprah, or are there little short chairs next to a sand table? Subtle clues abound.
There are some dental procedures that require specific child techniques or anesthesia, best done in a child-only practice. Your own dentist will refer you to a ped-dentist if that’s what you need. If you’re ever uncomfortable about anesthesia in an adult office, ask your dentist how often they do that. Or get a second opinion from a pediadontist.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), children should have a dental home by age one. I’m not sure that’s always necessary or practical. The ped dentists near me recommend seeing children for a first visit at age 3 – 3 ½.
Whenever you decide to see a dentist, follow these tips to keep teeth clean and healthy starting young:
- Never put a baby to bed or nap with a bottle.
- Start brushing at age 1 with a soft brush and a tiny, rice-sized dab of fluoride-containing toothpaste.
- Stop using baby bottles by 12 months of age—especially the one that leaves baby’s mouth full of milk at bedtime. After a last snack, brush teeth before bed.
- Once complementary foods are added, babies should also drink water with meals. Water—not juice, not anything sweetened. Water. Ordinary, cheap, fluoridated tap water. Mmmmm.
- Avoid sugary drinks, including juice, which is about as nutritious as soda.
- Don’t let your child stroll around all day with a sippy cup.
If you haven’t been able to follow those steps, or have a strong family history of teeth problems, or you or your child’s doctor see problems with your child’s teeth, you ought to head to the dentist early—by age 1, as the ADA recommends. Whether it’s a ped-only or a general, family dentist is probably less important than overall good nutrition and dental habits.Explore posts in the same categories: Medical problems, Nutrition comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.