How to Choose a Pediatric Dentist

dr cooper and patient

First, Why a Pediatric Dentist in the First Place?

Pediatric dentistry is the specialty of dentistry that focuses on the oral health of young people the same as your pediatrician does in relation to their general health. After completing a four-year dental school curriculum, two to three additional years of rigorous training are required to become a pediatric dentist. This specialized program of study and hands-on experience has prepared us to meet the needs of infants, children, and adolescents, including those with special health care needs. As most parents would prefer to see a pediatrician for their child’s general health,  it makes sense for a parent to want their child seen by a pediatric dentist for their oral health needs.

Second, Choosing the Right Office for You!

Choosing any doctor is always difficult, but it seems even more so for your child in the dental environment. Personal stigmas, fears, and anxieties about dentistry make it feel even more important to find the right practitioner. Most fine pediatric dentists understand that they are treating two patients, the child, and the parent. It is difficult to successfully treat one without successfully treating the other. The basis of that success lies in communication, trust, and knowledge. If your doctor is a good communicator, trust often will follow and you will then gain the knowledge that will improve every aspect of your child’s oral care needs. Having all your questions answered without feeling rushed will support a collaborative process and the chemistry that is necessary for a good relationship. The doctor and staff should be empathetic and not lose sight of the fact this could be difficult and have that instinctive ability to relieve the anxieties of both you and your child. Patience is a necessary characteristic that all staff should have. Treating all types of children (and parents) on a daily basis can be extremely grueling requiring one to have the ability to keep their composure. Professionals treating children must have those personality traits which enable them to practice without the emotions that would be to the detriment of their patients. All of these qualities lead to an office reputation that will encourage friends, family, and other professionals to refer you to these offices. Although reviews are helpful one needs to be aware that they have their limitations for a number of reasons. Your best referral is from those that you trust who have had a positive experience in many of the ways that are being described here.

Additional Qualities That Set Offices Apart

  • Offices that provide a “Dental Home” for Infants Within 6 Months of First Tooth Eruption

    The dental home is an ongoing relationship between the pediatric dentist and the patient, inclusive of all aspects of oral health care delivered in a comprehensive, continuously accessible, coordinated, and family-centered way. The establishment of a dental home begins around the age of 12 months.

  • A Comfortable Environment for Both Children and Parents

    Everyone should be warm and welcoming within an environment that makes you feel like this is where your family belongs. The office should be “child friendly” and “parent-friendly”. An environment is created that is fun for your child and at the same time makes you feel relaxed.

  • Oral Health Care for the Special Needs Population

    Patients with intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities, medical complexities, should all have equitable access to oral disease prevention and care. Many children with special needs are very susceptible to decay, gum disease, and oral trauma. An office that welcomes and encourages those with special needs children to visit provides an extremely valuable service.

  • Behavior Guidance Techniques

    Behavior guidance techniques, both non pharmacological and pharmacological, are used to alleviate anxiety, nurture a positive dental attitude, and perform quality oral health care safely and efficiently. The selection of techniques must be tailored to the needs of the individual patient and the skills of the practitioner. There are numerous behavior guidance techniques available for use in contemporary pediatric dentistry. The one that best suits you and your child should be a discussion welcomed by your practitioner.

  • Prevention to Make Every Child Part of the Cavity Free Generation

    Our children are growing up in an age where they can reap the benefits of all the knowledge and advances that are being made in the rapidly changing world of dentistry. Prevention is always the best treatment and our focus is just that. This generation will be the recipient of advances over the last 2 decades that will result in fewer cavities and filled teeth. As these “beneficiaries” enter into various stages of adulthood, the knowledge gained and the tools we have (and will implement) will translate in to better dental health with less cost and discomfort.

  • Use of Technological Advances

    - Paperless Electronic Medical records
    - Digital patient registration online and in office
    - Automated Appointment Reminders
    - 2-way text messaging
    - Electronic submission of insurance claims
    - Digital payment options
    - Digital radiography
    - Intraoral cameras
    - Newest dental resin materials (white fillings) that are BPA free
    - Office WiFi, computers, and electronics to be enjoyed by kids and adults

  • In-Office Anesthesia and Hospital-Based General Anesthesia

    - Dental anesthesiologists allow performing treatment while children are asleep in the comfort of the office.
    - Staff privileges at a hospital to enable dentistry under general anesthesia.

  • Emergency Care and Availability

    It is important for offices to offer emergency care when you need them, especially over the weekend. The availability of doctors to discuss patient care issues is critical in establishing a relationship that works in the best interests of your child.

  • State of the Art Approaches to Dentistry

    Emerging technologies, the development of new dental materials, and research into the carious processes have changed how dentistry is practiced:
    - Minimally Invasive Dentistry -The goal being the preservation of natural tooth structure rather than replace it with fillings.
    - Treating Caries as a Transmissible Infectious Disease – Bacteria may be transmitted from a caregiver (e.g. moms or sitters) to a child through salivary contact.
    - Realization That Teeth have the ability to Remineralize – This means very small cavities if detected early enough, can sometimes be left when minerals can replace the destroyed tooth structure or prevent cavity progression.
    - Assessing the Risk Level of Each Patient for Developing Dental Caries – Individualized treatment and prevention modalities enable the impact on the delicate balance that reduces the factors contributing to disease and increases those that are protective.

  • Individualized Care

    Customizing treatment to accommodate the clinical, financial, and emotional needs of the family. Tailoring care to the specific needs of the child and parent, and being flexible in order to accomplish that end is a signal that you and your doctor are a good match.

"If one is not happy with an office, there is everything right in making a change."