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The Definitive Guide to Pediatric Dentistry for Parents of Young Children

What separates pediatric dentists from family dentists or general dentists? Mom and Dad, if you’re interested in learning all about pediatric dentistry, you’ve come to the right place.

In our “Definitive Guide to Pediatric Dentistry” (in question and answer format) you will learn a mass amount of information — information that will come in handy for parents or caregivers of young kids.

So please join us…

What is Pediatric Dentistry?

Pediatric dentistry is a specialty that uses procedures and techniques for children’s oral health care. Many of these techniques and procedures are adapted from general dentistry in order to provide comprehensive pediatric dentistry services to kids.

Pediatric dentistry focuses on infants, children, and adolescents (teenagers), including those who have special health care needs (emotional, physical, or other developmental disabilities). Pediatric dentists have the qualifications and skills to treat teeth, gums, and the mouth from infancy through the teen years.

You see, the oral health needs of children in this age bracket are expansive. That is why pediatric dentists have specialized skills to manage a child’s oral care needs.

In addition to the dentist’s specialized skills, pediatric dental offices are tailored to kids. Offices are typically a fun, nonintimidating environment that a child can feel comfortable to interact and feel at ease. They are designed to help children feel excited to visit time and time again.

Children and teens with special needs are taken care of, as well. Most pediatric dental offices have wheelchair-friendly accessibility.

How is a Pediatric Dentist Different from a General Dentist or a Family Dentist?


A simple way to think about it—pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of the dentistry field.

On the other hand, “general dentists” and “family dentists” are usually used interchangeably without much distinction. General/family dentists are a “one-stop shop” for all of your family’s oral care needs (kids and adults), but they DO NOT have the advanced pediatric dentistry education and skills to treat the unique needs of infants, kids, and teenagers.

Take this example: When your 2-year-old son gets the flu, who do you call? The pediatrician, right?

Well the same goes for dentistry. If your 2-year-old son has a severe toothache, who do you call? The pediatric dentist, of course.

As mentioned earlier, pediatric dentists have specialized skills to provide dental care services for kids. In fact, a pediatric dentist has 2-3 years of specialty training (called residency training) after graduating from a 4-year dental school.

Pediatric dentists receive extensive knowledge and experience during their 2-3-year specialty training. They become experts on the unique needs of infants, children, and teenagers. They become experts on childhood development and behavior, which allows them to handle kids’ emotional and psychological needs in a positive, beneficial way.

Pediatric dentists only treat kids, not adults. So you should feel confident that you’re in the best hands when choosing a pediatric dentist for your son or daughter.

Why Should I Take My Child to a Pediatric Dentist?


Chances are, you probably already have a general/family dentist that you and your husband go to on a regular basis. That’s a good thing! However, it may not be the BEST decision to take your child to a general dentist.

You see, pediatric dentists have specialized skills and training to handle all types of children’s oral health care needs, as well as emotional and psychological needs. We talked a lot more about the benefits of taking your child to a pediatric dentist in the previous sections so please re-visit those sections if necessary.

Just remember…children develop (emotionally, psychologically, and physically) on a daily basis, which means their needs change, as well. Pediatric dentists know all about childhood development and can provide exceptional services tailored to your son or daughter.

So choose a pediatric dentist carefully. Give it much consideration before choosing the best one for your child. Choose an experienced, compassionate pediatric dentist who your child feels comfortable around.

It should be a fun, relaxing experience for your child. If your child has positive dental experiences growing up, he or she will most likely continue to have positive experiences dental during the adult years.

What Can Your Son or Daughter Learn From a Pediatric Dentist?

In addition to receiving personalized, tailored oral care, your child has the opportunity to learn many important things from the pediatric dentist, such as:

  • how to detect cavities
  • how to prevent cavities
  • how cavities form
  • how to properly brush his or her teeth
  • how to properly floss his or her teeth
  • how to eat healthy as a kid to promote healthy teeth and gums

Pediatric dentists (and typically the team members at the pediatric dental office) know how to make it fun and exciting to learn about oral care. They go out of their way to make his or her experience engaging—-something your child typically won’t receive from a general or a family dentist.

When Should Your Child’s First Pediatric Dental Appointment Be?

Your child’s first pediatric dental appointment should be around their 1st birthday (or when they get their first tooth—typically 6-12 months old).

During this phase, you can start cleaning your baby’s gums with a soft toothbrush to help prevent early childhood caries.

Visiting a pediatric dentist that early on in your child’s life (and routinely on a six-month basis) is very important for two reasons.

First, the dentist can discover and treat oral problems early on before they become more serious.

Second, your child learns to become comfortable at the dentist’s office. Be sure you choose the best pediatric dentist for your child—someone who makes your child feel comfortable, not scared or anxious.

When your child is old enough, teach him or her the basics of dentistry and oral care, and that’s what a pediatric dentist can help with, too.

How Should You Prepare for Your Child’s First Dental Visit?


The first dental visit is an important one—something that can either make a positive or a negative impact on your child’s future. Actually, adults with dental phobia say it started when they had negative experiences as a kid going to the dentist.

So in order for your child to have a positive first dental visit, try these tips:
  • Practice brushing his or her teeth at home. This will get them used to having a toothbrush in their mouth. Sometimes, during the first appointment, the dentist will quickly take a look in the child’s mouth to make sure everything looks good.
  • Provide the dentist with a list of any medical conditions your child has, including medications he or she takes, if applicable.
  • Bring along your pediatrician’s phone number in case your dentist wants it on file.
  • If your child has a thumb-sucking habit, takes a bottle, or uses a pacifier, let the dentist know. These habits can affect your child’s jaw development and teeth.
  • Keep an eye on how your child feels throughout the appointment. Determine if he or she feels comfortable throughout the appointment.
  • If your child feels uneasy or gets upset, ask the pediatric dentist if your child can continue the appointment while sitting on your lap.
  • Read dental-related kid’s books to your children. Teach them as much as possible so the dental experience becomes less frightening.
  • Be a good role model to your kids. Have them watch you brush and floss your teeth—kids learn a lot by example. You can also have them see (first hand) that you’re not afraid of dentist visits by accompanying you to your next cleaning appointment.

What Services or Treatments do Pediatric Dentists Offer?

Most pediatric dentists offer a wide selection of services in order to provide comprehensive oral care. Typical pediatric dental services include:

  • infant oral health exams
  • fluoride treatments
  • teeth cleanings
  • diet and nutrition recommendations
  • tooth repairs for cavities and other defects
  • dental injuries care and dental trauma care (i.e. knocked-out tooth)
  • habit recommendations (i.e. pacifier use or thumb sucking)
  • early orthodontics assessment (pediatric dentists typically refer your child to see an orthodontist, if applicable)
  • oral conditions management and gum disease management (i.e. ulcers)

How Often Should My Child See the Pediatric Dentist?

Routine appointments once every 6 months are recommended to prevent cavities and other serious dental problems. However, your pediatric dentist will make that determination based upon your child’s unique oral health needs.

How Do You Find a Pediatric Dentist Near You?


You can start by doing an Internet search. For instance, search for your city + “pediatric dentist” (i.e. “Alpharetta pediatric dentist”) and look at which pediatric dental offices show in the search engine results.

You can read reviews from actual parents and caregivers to see what everyone is saying about the level of care and experience they receive.

You can also use the “Find a Pediatric Dentist” tool on the following website ( to find a qualified pediatric dentist in your area.