Top 3 Reasons Your Child Should See a Pediatric Dentist

Winning Smiles Pediatric Dental Care is open for business in Pittsburgh!  So what's the big deal?  There's tons of dentists in and around the city, even right here in Shadyside.  What makes us any different?  You may be thinking, "I can just take (insert your child's name here) to my dentist.  Isn't that OK?"  That may be OK, but you want better than OK for your child, right?  That's where a pediatric dentist, like myself, comes in.  Think about it this way.  If your kid is due for a well child visit or gets sick, you're likely taking them to a pediatrician.  Well, consider us the pediatricians of the dental world.  We only see kids, all day, every day...and we love every minute of it.  Don't get me wrong.  Adult general dentists are fantastic!  We absolutely need them, and I'm so grateful for the broad range of services they provide.  But when it comes to children, a specialist in pediatric dentistry is often the way to go for reasons you might not even realize.  It's not about being better than an adult dentist, it's about being a better fit.  Let me explain with the three Es of pediatric dentistry.


1. Education 

All dentists go through a ton of a training...high school, college, and four years of dental school.  Dental school does a great job of preparing us to do general adult dentistry, but not so much kids' dentistry.  A recent dental school graduate could have easily done only a handful of fillings on children vs. hundreds or maybe even thousands on adults.  Because of this and so many other reasons, pediatric dentistry is a specialty within the dental field, meaning extra school...YAY!  Us lucky few that can call ourselves pediatric dentists have gone through all of the schooling mentioned before and then some.  After finishing dental school, we complete specialty training in a residency program that's 2-3 years long so that we can truly understand the best way to care for kids.  Adding this 2-3 years onto everything else makes that about 22-23 years of school, from grade school through residency, in case you were wondering!

I completed residency at a hospital, so besides gaining knowledge of dental techniques for kids, I also learned about (and saw) some of the most unique dental and medical cases, common pediatric ailments and medications that can affect the teeth, behavior types often seen in children and the best ways to modify less than ideal behavior, so as to not interfere with safe and proper dental treatment, by using non-pharmacological (tell-show-do, for example) and pharmacological (sedation and anesthesia) methods.  Teeth that should be present at various ages, along with growth and development of the jaws, head, and neck were part of the curriculum as well, not to mention very small, but very important, physiological differences between baby vs. adult teeth and their significant effects on type, proper placement and longevity of fillings and other restorations.  When is your kid ready for braces?  Is it time to get wisdom teeth out?  A pediatric dentist knows!  

Kids aren't just little adults. Their attention spans, mindsets and comprehension levels are much different.  When it comes to a dentist treating your child, you need someone who has an educational background focused on providing specialized care to kids.  But we all know book smarts are only part of the story...and that's where the next E of pediatric dentistry comes in.

2. Experience

Anyone can read a dental education book.  You know you want to.  But actually treating live, breathing, moving kids is a whole different world.  The books obviously give the foundation to stand on, but when a 3 year old is crying and screaming while you're trying to clean their teeth or place a filling is no time to stop everything and think "Hey, I wonder what behavior type she is?"  This is where experience kicks in.  Because we pediatric dentists have seen and done so many various forms of treatment on kids of all ages, we're able to take in boat loads of information from a child in very, very short amounts of time, process it and spit it back out (not literally) in the form of efficient but caring dental treatment.  And don't worry parents, because we have so much experience, even the kids who are super strong, nervous or "won't let anyone near their mouth" will do just fine.  That's what I, and all the other pediatric dentists are here for...and we actually enjoy it!  We have magical abilities to help each and every child have a positive dental experience, because we've seen and cared for all types of kids in all types of situations.  

Practice makes perfect.  Obviously no one is perfect but with loads of experience comes confidence and comfort in what we do and how we do it.  Relative to an adult general dentist who sees kids, pediatric dentists are typically more willing and able to begin seeing your little ones at a younger age, and we have a myriad of treatment and behavior modification techniques at our disposal that a non-specialist may not have or be comfortable using.  For example, due to completing several hundred emergency and sedation cases during residency and in private practice, I'm able to and extremely comfortable with seeing patients in office after an accident involving a mouth injury and/or treating young, nervous children with multiple cavities under sedation.  You may be saying "My child never has cavities and hasn't had a dental injury.  They only need cleanings, so we don't need a pediatric dentist."  That could be true, but as with most things in the life of children, routines and consistency are key.  Starting dental visits early and often with the same doctor can prove invaluable when it comes to comfort, whether it's for a cleaning or to fix a broken tooth.  

It's now recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry that children begin seeing the dentist no later than 12 months of age.  Many adult dentists prefer not to see kids this young, and a lot of the reasons stem from comfort level with and actually wanting to care for children at such a young age.  Early dental checkups can be compared to well visits at the pediatrician, so starting these visits sooner rather than later is always for the best.  Pediatric dentists have the unique ability to follow and treat children from their youngest to late teenage years, allowing your child to stick with one doctor for some of the most important years of their lives.  Here's another way that consistency could come in handy.  Imagine a trip to the emergency room...this new place, swarming with strange faces and surroundings, all while Susie has an injury.  Take out the new place, strange face and surroundings, and the stress level of the situation would be taken down significantly.  Now apply this same reasoning to a dental emergency.  Obviously there's always going to be some anxiety when any type of accident occurs, but seeing a familiar, friendly face and place undoubtedly significantly reduces it.  By having taken Susie to the same dentist for years, there will be some sense of relief for both child and parent alike, when a familiar, experienced face comes walking into the room rather someone you've never met.  Trust me, it makes it easier on you, her, me and everyone else!  Think of how much this can enhance a trip to the dentist.  That brings us to our final E pediatric dentistry.

3. Expertise   

When you think of an expert, you typically think of someone who has the education, training and experience to provide the most accurate information and/or services.  That's exactly who a pediatric dentist is.  I can, therefore, be considered an expert in kids' oral health.  It's not just about filling cavities or cleaning teeth; it's about providing children with the information and treatment they need to achieve lifelong dental health..and not be a terrified adult dental patient.  Think of how many times you've heard someone say that they hate going to the dentist.  It's likely because of a bad experience they had when they were little.  That's why we're avoid that happening to any other child that will someday become an adult.  Habits (good or bad) formed now will last a lifetime, and phobias can too.  With our knowledge and experience described in the first two Es, and the excellent treatment that results, kids tell me that they love coming to the dentist!   

Much overlooked items at adult dental offices like kid-friendly decor, language used to speak to kids, and smaller instruments to less tangible perks like patience, a bright personality,  and a caring, gentle touch can make or break your child's visit to the dentist.  I can assure you that bringing your kid to a pediatric dentist will be beneficial for both of you.    

Don't delay, bring your child to a pediatric dentist today.  You'll be glad you did!