Finding a good Dentist for you and your family is not difficult. Although, sitting through dental checkups, poking around in your gaping mouth, drilling and grinding is not pleasant, there are ten very simple steps that virtually guarantee success. The first two tips are the ideal place to start. What kind of Dentist do you need? Do you need a special Dentist for your children? Until you answer these fundamental questions, all else is moot.
I. What kind of Dentist do I need?
State Board licensed Dentists in general practice are fully qualified to provide nearly all aspects of dental care. General Dentists often label themselves “cosmetic Dentist” to indicate that they offer cosmetic dental treatments, or a “family Dentist” can treat your whole family. These designations are not officially recognized dental specializations. Dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association include Endodontist (root canal therapy), Maxillofacial and Oral Surgeon (tooth extraction and oral surgery), Orthodontist (braces and repositioning teeth), Pedodontist or Pediatric Dentist (specializing in children and teens), periodontist (care of gums and supporting tissues) and Prosthodontists (restorative and rehabilitation specialists.)
If you have extreme symptoms such as bleeding gums, constant jaw pain or severe toothache, it is easy and automatic to assume that you need a dental specialist. While that may be true, most dental specialists require that you first see a general Dentist for a comprehensive dental exam, and a referral as required.
If your general Dentist determines that you need treatments that are outside their expertise, he or she should then refer you to an appropriate specialist. Bear in mind that many general Dentists actually perform some of the same treatments as dental specialists, such as wisdom tooth extraction, root canals, and dental crown and bridge procedures.
Therefore, find a general Dentist with whom you feel comfortable. Setup regular visits, and go ask your questions.
II. Do I need a special Dentist for my children?
Based on your family situation, you will decide between a General Dentist or a Children’s (Pediatric) Dentist. Although, a Pediatric Dentist may be your best choice for that special child, many General Dentists are comfortable treating children with special health care needs. Talk with a Dentist about your child’s condition to decide on the best dental home for your child.
Pediatric Dentists specialize in caring for children’s teeth. After dental school, a Pediatric Dentist has an extra two to three years of training in dentistry for children. This training includes treatment of children with special health care needs. Based on your child’s needs, you may decide on a Pediatric Dentist.
Your child’s first visit should be by 1 year old. The Dentist will talk with you about your child’s medical history – prenatal, developmental history, and current condition. The Dentist will ask questions to find out if your child is at low, moderate or high risk for cavities and gum disease. This information is used to make a plan to help prevent problems in the mouth.
For infants and toddlers, the Dentist may take just a quick look at how the teeth are growing and the condition of your child’s mouth. As your child gets older the Dentist will more thoroughly check the mouth, clean the teeth, and take x-rays.
Infants and young children often sit in their parent’s lap or in a “knee to knee” position. A child may need more help to be relaxed and still during treatment.
In some cases, conscious sedation (medicine given to your child to drink or given through the veins) is used. It calms your child and he stays awake and responsive. Along with medication, a safety restraint may be used so your child does not move and jerk. A common type is a papoose system – wrapping a child snugly in a special blanket. This keeps their arms, legs and head still so the Dentist can work safely.
The Dentist or Hygienist should give you detailed instructions on how to care for your child’s teeth and mouth. You should practice brushing and flossing so you feel comfortable. Brush at least two times a day.
Most children should see a Dentist or dental hygienist two times a year. Your Dentist may suggest your child visit every 3 – 4 months.