7 Common Questions About Pediatric Dentistry

Find the answers to your questions about pediatric dentistry.

When it comes to dental health, parents want nothing more than for their child to have a bright, healthy smile. A big part of building a foundation of strong oral health for your child is picking the right dental professional.

If you’re a new parent looking for the best dentist for your baby or you’re considering the benefits of switching your child from the family dentist to their own pediatric dentist, we’re here to help. Here are the answers to the 7 most common questions Dr. Shea gets from parents about pediatric dentistry.

1. What’s the difference between a pediatric dentist and a family dentist?

Family dentists provide general dental care for individuals and families, including children, while pediatric dentists focus solely on providing dental care for children. Pediatric dental groups have no minimum patient age limit for kids and continue to provide care for their young patients up until high school and sometimes even the first year or two of college. Family dental groups may have a minimum patient age limit, usually around two to four years of age, and no maximum age limit.

Another significant difference between a pediatric dentist and a family dentist is education. After four years of dental school, pediatric dentists will undertake an additional two years of schooling completely focused on kids’ dental care, including diagnostics, treatment, and even soft skills training, such as interacting with children or treating kids with special needs.

2. What are the advantages of a pediatric dentist versus a family dentist?

The expertise of a pediatric dentist can’t be beaten. A skilled pediatric dentist like Dr. Shea is able to pick up on signs of trouble in a child’s oral development that a family dentist may not notice. In fact, family dentists may even refer their young patients to a dedicated pediatric practice for the treatment of trickier issues (i.e. chronic tooth decay or pediatric gum disease).

Pediatric dentists and their staff are also very knowledgeable in how to speak with kids, especially children with severe fear or special needs, putting them at ease, and helping them understand why oral health is important. Family dentists may love kids, but they are not required to undergo professional training in working with children..

3. Which dental care services can I expect from a pediatric dentist?

Pediatric dentists provide general dental care for kids, primarily focusing on preventive and restorative dentistry. Preventive dentistry is all about stopping problems before they happen through proper oral hygiene, diet recommendations, and the use of dental sealants to prevent decay. Restorative dentistry is used to treat an issue, such as tooth decay, through the use of fillings, crowns, bridges, etc.

Dr. Shea provides complete pediatric dental services as well as orthodontic evaluations and emergency dental care.

4. When should my child start seeing a dentist and how often should appointments be?

The American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) both recommend parents schedule their kids’ first appointment either within six months of their first tooth erupting or by their first birthday. Following through on this early appointment timeline is a fantastic way of getting your baby accustomed to seeing a dentist and having their mouth examined.

Most kids will do great with biannual check-ups and cleanings, just like adults. Your child’s dentist may also recommend more frequent appointments under special circumstances, such as to monitor a cavity prior to treatment.

5. My child is afraid of dentists. How can a pediatric dentist help them get over their fears?

Dental anxiety or fear of the dentist is completely normal, especially for kids who have just begun to visit a dentist on a regular basis. Pediatric dentists, like Dr. Shea and her team, have the training and experience with helping kids who are fearful or nervous. This includes comfort care practices, speaking in a kid-friendly manner, and providing gentle treatment.

With time and patience, many kids naturally develop more confidence and even look forward to their trips to the dentist.

6. In the event of a dental emergency, can a pediatric dentist help my child?

Emergency dental care for kids is an important consideration for parents. Accidents happen and when they do you’ll want to know exactly who to call. The good news is many pediatric dentists do offer emergency dental care for kids, including Dr. Shea.

If your child is experiencing a dental emergency, call our office right away and follow the instructions on our phone voicemail to access our emergency phone number. Dental emergencies include an adult tooth being knocked out, severe toothaches or pain, oral swelling, oral bleeding, or a broken tooth.

7. What can I expect during my kid’s first visit with a new pediatric dentist?

Your first appointment with Dr. Shea will be easy-breezy! The goal of the first appointment is for Dr. Shea and her team to meet you and your kids, discuss your child’s oral health, and conduct an initial examination. If a problem is spotted during the examination, Dr. Shea will also put together a treatment plan.

All you need to do as the parent is bring along your kids’ insurance cards and be sure you’ve filled out our New Patient forms. If you’re unable to fill out these forms, please arrive about 10 minutes early so you have time to complete paper copies before the appointment.

When you’re ready to schedule your child’s first visit with Dr. Shea, just give us a call!

You’ll find our contact information on our website or fill out this appointment request form—it’s up to you!

For urgent appointments or questions, calling our office directly is recommended. For non-emergencies during non-business hours, feel free to leave a message on our answering machine and we’ll get back to you the next day.