Why Should My Child See A Carlsbad Pediatric Dentist?

Almost every day, I get asked the same question: “Why does my child need to see a pediatric specialist instead of visiting a regular dentist?” As a working mom of three kids, I can appreciate the special concerns and worries that all parents share about their children’s health. When seeking care for my own children, I want to feel comfortable that the professional seeing my kids understands their perspectives and needs.

Pediatric dentists are trained to address the unique physiologic, emotional, and social needs of their young patients. Whereas most dentists are able to practice adult dentistry immediately after four years of dental school, pediatric dentists complete two to three more years of advanced training. This extra clinical education prepares them for the special medical issues of infants, children, adolescents, including those with extraordinary needs.

My education as a pediatric dentist focused specifically on the medical and dental health aspects of children. While most general dentists treat a broad range of dental issues, a pediatric specialist acts as a “pediatrician” in charge of oral health. Early dental problems, including baby bottle tooth decay, pacifier use, and routine care of an infant’s teeth are all commonly handled in the pediatric dental practice. We also follow children from a very early age through their adolescence and are able to closely monitor their growth and development over time. This facilitates early recognition and referral of problems such as the need for orthodontic evaluation.

As many as 75% of all adults experience some degree of dental fear. 5-10% suffer from a more extreme version known as dental phobia, a fear so strong that they avoid dental care at all costs. Early childhood visits to an office specializing in pediatric dentistry dramatically decreases this fear later in life by establishing a positive and enjoyable dental experience from start. This is achieved in many ways and begins the moment a family walks into a pediatric dental office. These first impressions set the tone for how the child feels and acts at the dentist. Offices are designed with children in mind, frequently incorporating a special childlike theme throughout the building. Having the first dental visit in a friendly and nonthreatening environment develops trust and confidence in dental care and this hopefully carries over into adulthood.

Additionally, preventative care is much more easily fostered in these friendly surroundings. Children feel good about their teeth and want to protect their dental identities. Once inside the pediatric-themed office, the child’s positive experience is reinforced by toys, puzzles, coloring books, video games, overhead televisions, reward stickers, and treasure boxes. A nurturing environment is supported by playful office staff trained to work with children and who (more importantly) wish to work solely with young patients. Our staff enjoys interacting through games and role-playing playing, all along teaching kids the valuable health lesson of taking responsibility for caring for one’s teeth. The positive attitude in the office spreads from patient to patient, and with no other adults being treated (as in a regular dental office), the child begins to feel that the pediatric office is a kid-safe zone.

For the nervous child in whom behavioral techniques and simple reassurance are not enough to allay their fears, most pediatric offices have nitrous oxide or ”laughing gas”. This medicine does not place children under general (asleep) anesthesia but rather in a mild and safe state of sedation. Once relaxed, dental treatments can easily proceed in a more pleasant manner. For the rare child in whom nitrous oxide is not a good option, a pediatric dentist with hospital privileges can perform the required work in the operating room, under the watchful eye of a pediatric anesthesiologist. This provides a very safe and controlled environment in which to treat the most anxious and medically compromised child.

Obviously, good oral health is an important part of total health when treating children and our good working relationships with other pediatric health professionals is very useful. We often work with pediatricians, other physicians, and dental specialists to design a specifically tailored treatment plan that is ideal for your child.

Not every health care professional is well suited or has the education to care for children. It takes a special amount of patience, compassion, and skill to handle a child expressing natural fears related to new experiences, unfamiliar environments, parental separation, anxiety, or pain. None of us take our children to an internal medicine doctor for their check-ups and sick visits, so why would an adult dentist suffice when it comes to something as important as our kids’ smiles and oral health? Pediatric dentists, most of whom are parents as well, have dedicated their careers to caring for your children in a warm, nurturing, and safe place.