A trip to the dentist can be anxiety-provoking for anyone, especially children. And kids have different dental needs than adults. So should you look for someone with expertise working with children or, perhaps, even a pediatric dentist? Or will the family dentist do? Here are some points to consider when choosing a dentist for your child.

Children’s Dental Needs are Different

The approach to caring for a child’s teeth places great emphasis on prevention. Children need guidance on the proper care and brushing of their teeth, how to prevent cavities, and what foods are the healthiest for teeth. Also, children have different growth and development issues, such as the eruption of the “baby” teeth and the transition to their adult teeth. In addition to these treatment approaches, you should consider a dentist’s knowledge of sedation and anesthesia in children, in cases where a child needs dental surgery.

Children May Have Fears about Going to the Dentist

Many children, especially infants and toddlers, may act differently at the doctor’s or dentists office. This can be due to a fear of the unknown, a fear of strangers, or it could even be based on a previous trauma or incident relating to a dentist or doctor visit. When selecting a dentist for your child, you may want to find someone who frequently works with children because they will be experienced in handling various behaviors, fears, etc. They can help calm a nervous, anxious, or upset child. Even finding offices that are appealing to children can help, such as having waiting rooms with small tables and chairs, crayons, toys, and other activities to occupy and entertain children.

Pediatric Dentist or Regular Dentist

Pediatric dentists are dentists that have at least two years of training beyond dental school. This training includes learning about the growth and development of children’s teeth, learning how to treat children for injuries to the teeth, and training in behavior management and child psychology. A pediatric dentist also receives training in the treatment of children under sedation and anesthesia.

What about a regular dentist? While a regular dentist does not have to complete the additional training, there are many dentists who can skillfully and appropriately treat children. These dentists should have experience working with kids and enjoy treating them. A dentist with little or no experience working with children is likely to have difficulty dealing with children who are upset, crying, or fearful. Also, they may not be as aware of children’s specific developmental needs.

So should you choose a dentist with experience working with children? Based on the fact that children have different developmental needs and may have more behavioral needs than adults, especially very young children, it would seem the wise choice would be the dentist experienced in working with children. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to pick a pediatric dentist. However, it’s probably best to find someone who likes children, has a good rapport with them, and is very knowledgeable about issues relating to children and their teeth. The goal is to find a skilled dentist that can educate you and your child about healthy teeth, deal with any dental problems or issues your child has, and can make your child feel comfortable and want to come back. This will help your child create a healthy, lifelong habit of visiting the dentist.