Before taking your child to the dentist for the first time, you may wish to consider whether you should see a pediatric dentist or a general dentist. Not every parent is aware of the differences between pediatric dentists and general dentists, so it’s important to recognize this distinction before finding someone to take care of your child. Seeing a pediatric dentist may be better for your child in the long run, and as a new parent, it’s important to research this difference so you can ensure your child is getting the best care possible for their age or needs. While many parents tend to take their children where they go, is this the best choice for your child’s oral health?
First, it’s important to note that a pediatric dentist is not just a general dentist who happens to also take care of children’s teeth. While it’s possible your general dentist may take care of your child, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re fully qualified to take care of little ones. A pediatric dentist is actually a special type of dentist that has training beyond that of a general dentist, usually about 2 to 3 years on top of their general dentistry training to earn this title. While the general dentist can take care of most oral care needs for adults, and likely some children’s needs, they do not possess the same level of knowledge on infant, child, and adolescent oral care that a pediatric dentist does. These former years are some of the most important times for your child’s development, especially as the rest of the body (and the mouth!) undergoes tremendous amounts of change as your child grows into a young adult.
Pediatric dentists are more closely attuned to the needs of your child’s oral care as they have spent this additional 2 to 3 years of residency studying how the oral care needs of a child differ from those of an adult. They are the equivalent of a pediatrician versus a general physician, but for oral care! They are specially trained to assess how the oral care children are receiving and performing will later affect their development and overall health. Preventative care when it comes to dentistry can save your child from having lifelong health issues, so it’s important to find someone qualified to administer this care for your child.
If you’ve been considering whether or not to take your child to a pediatric dentist, whether it be for convenience or questions about the differences in care, you should definitely consider visiting a pediatric dentist with your child. You can ask them questions about taking care of your child’s developing teeth and gums that your general dentist may not be able to answer, and you can use this time to ask other questions about the specific needs of taking care of a child’s mouth versus your own. It can be difficult to figure out all of these answers without help, so ask your local pediatric dentist if they can help as you navigate taking care of your child!