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Pediatric Dentists

Pediatric dentists can catch and treat tooth problems at a young age, making it less likely for the problems to worsen as your child gets older.

What pediatric dentists do?

Pediatric dentists primarily treat children—from infants to teenagers—diagnosing, treating and helping prevent a wide range of oral problems.

Your child should see a dentist as soon the first tooth erupts in his or her mouth, which is usually around six months. If your child does not see a dentist at this time, the first dental checkup should occur no later than his or her first birthday.

The majority of patients will not have serious issues. Dentists of young patients will mostly perform routine dental services, such as checkups and cleanings. During these regular checkups, dentists can evaluate and monitor tooth development and correct any problems early.

Pediatric dentists also address common oral problems, like treating gingivitis or filling cavities. They may also repair teeth that have been chipped, broken or knocked out.

A dentist might give a parent advice on how to help their children stop bad habits, such as thumb-sucking or using a pacifier, that can harm their teeth. Dentists also can show you and your children how to properly brush and floss their teeth.

Why pediatric dentistry is important

Children's teeth are drastically different from adults' teeth and they encounter different problems. A pediatric dentist is specially trained to understand and deal with these potential problems, which may include misalignment, developmental problems and poor oral-hygiene habits. If a dentist catches and treats these problems in childhood, they'll become less of a bother in the future. 

Good oral-hygiene habits are extremely important throughout a person's life. Unfortunately, many children are very lax about oral hygiene. They may not brush as often as they should, or correctly. Also, they might not floss correctly, if at all. Poor oral hygiene habits often lead to cavities, tooth decay and gum disease. A pediatric dentist, can address and correct these problems during regular dental checkups. Children and parents alike can learn how to care for young teeth, and, hopefully, this advice will lead to good oral hygiene habits throughout life.

Children should begin seeing a pediatric dentist to ease any fears associated with dental care before the fears can start. A good pediatric dentist can relate to children and make them feel at ease and comfortable. A non-threatening—and possibly even fun—environment can help eliminate the fear of dentists that plagues many patients in adulthood. If children grow up without fearing their dentist, they're more likely to schedule regular dental checkups as adults.

Choosing a pediatric dentist

A pediatric dentist must complete dental school, just like all other dentists. Because caring for a child's teeth differs somewhat from caring for an adult's teeth, a pediatric dentist must complete a two-year residency in dentistry for young patients. During this residency, an aspiring pediatric dentist is trained to deal with young children and the oral problems they face.

To find the right pediatric dentist for your child, start by contacting your health insurance provider and reading the directory of pediatric dentists who accept your dental plan.  Carefully research the pediatric dentists you are considering, and verify their medical license, qualifications, board certification and continuing education through the American Board of Medical Specialties. Then consult Angie's List, where you can read member reviews and rankings. Be sure to take location into consideration, especially if you're torn between two highly rated dentists.