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Finding the right pediatric dentist for your child may seem like an easy selection, but the proper dental home will set attitudes and expectations about oral health care throughout his or her lifetime. One bad experience can sully a child’s perspective about going to the dentist and those feelings are hard to change. A positive, comfortable experience, on the other hand, can set the tone for the rest of his or her life. We all know people who fear going to the dentist, but we know they weren’t born with that fear; where did it develop? Most likely, it was either during an uncomfortable dental experience or the vibes put out by their parents; kids pick up on apprehensive feelings, so if you as the parent display a disdain for dental care, your children just may follow your example. We reached out to a pediatric dentist in Oklahoma City (https://reflectionsdentalcare.com/) for some insight and this is what we have to share with you.
How do we break this chain of apprehension about the dentist? Start with an excellent dental home for your child, one where he or she feels comfortable and safe. This may take some interviewing and be checking out different pediatric dentists’ offices, but in the long run, the time investment will be worth it.
The first question to ask a pediatric dentist is about his or her qualifications and experience. Pediatric dentistry is a specialized field, one that requires additional education. A qualified pediatric dentist has an extra two to three years of specialized training after dental school. In addition to educational expertise, a pediatric dentist needs to know how to treat small children, toddlers, children and teens, including their dental growth and development. The doctor should also be familiar with common pediatric dental issues, like baby bottle tooth decay, improper teeth alignment, and other complications attributed to children. A skilled doctor should also be able to offer various solutions to many oral health issues, based on the child’s individual case, temperament and needs. In addition, a good dentist should take the time to educate the child on brushing, flossing, and ongoing oral health care. The dentist should also discuss the benefits of a healthy diet and the effect of certain foods on a child’s teeth while keeping the child entertained and engaged. Another important aspect of a good pediatrician is someone who can work with the smaller instruments used to clean and maintain a child’s teeth. While any dentist might be able to perform a cleaning and check-up, a pediatric dentist utilizes the smaller tools on a regular basis, and that may make the appointment easier for all parties involved!
While a great deal of a pediatric dentist’s job involves knowledge of teeth, gums, and overall oral health care, just as important is the personality and disposition of the doctor. When you meet with a potential pediatric dentist, there are certain attributes the doctor should possess. Finding a doctor who makes your child feel at ease is probably the biggest hurdle you’ll face. Your child shouldn’t feel apprehensive or scared; generally, a good doctor will spend ample time introducing your child to the staff, the dental equipment, and making sure your child is comfortable. A good pediatric dentist is immensely patient; oftentimes small children are not cooperative in the dentist’s chair. Helping a scared child feel better takes a gentle nature; a must for any pediatric dentist. A bit of empathy goes a long way with a frightened child and a doctor who takes extra time will gain the child’s trust. The ability to soothe is important but so is the ability to give the child direction when necessary. The knack to command respect while also remaining pleasant is a delicate balance; one a skilled doctor should possess. A pediatric dentist has to be a “kid person”, plain and simple.
The doctor’s office staff should be equally compassionate and understanding with their younger patients. If the doctor is kind and caring but the front office staff is abrasive, the child will quickly be turned off. The same is true with older pediatric patients; if the doctor and staff are condescending or too focused on the little kids, teens will not want to see the dentist. The doctor needs to be able to treat each child, from infant to toddler to teen, as an individual.
The office itself should be an inviting space. Some offices sport a theme—dinosaurs, sea creatures, the circus—something that grabs the child’s attention when they arrive. Many doctors feature a toy box to entertain the little ones or offer a prize for a successful office visit. Older kids often enjoy video games and a selection of TV shows or movies while in the waiting room; making the office appealing to all ages is the key.
You will also want to know your doctor’s policy on emergency treatments since most emergencies take place after regular business hours. If your child experiences a dental emergency, like a broken tooth, you will want to know how to reach the doctor and if he or she is available after hours. If your child has special needs, you will also want to ensure that your doctor has experience working with children who have mental or physical limitations. The pediatric dentist may provide some sort of sedation dentistry option for any child who may need some extra relaxation.
You know your child best. Finding a secure, pleasant dental home for your son or daughter is an important task, and you will know when your child bonds with a dentist. Make sure to ask probing questions on your child’s behalf, and work with the dental professional to teach your child proper brushing and flossing techniques. As your child grows, he or she will come to understand that cleaning and check-up exams are nothing to be afraid of, and that having clean, sparkling teeth takes regular maintenance. Having open communication with the dentist you select will help both of you to best serve your child’s needs. The collective goal should be to teach your child about oral health care at an early age and how to maintain healthy teeth and gums for life!