Here are some suggestions to help you find the right pediatric dentist for your special needs child. With a bit of time, research and knowing what to look for, you’ll be happy when you find the perfect fit between a dental office and your child because this is a relationship that can last years.
Be Sure that the Dentist is a Pediatric Dentist. Some dentists, even those that work primarily with children, are not pediatric dentists. They may have completed a Pediatric Mini Residency instead. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry:
A pediatric dentist has two to three years specialty training following dental school and limits his/her practice to treating children only. Pediatric dentists are primary and specialty oral care providers for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special health needs.
(You can also use the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry site to find a pediatric dentists by zip code.)
Check for Complaints: Each state has a Board of Dentistry. You can check online, call or request the information in writing about an individual dentist or practice.
Interview the Dentist: Ask about the dentist’s and staff’s strategies for children who are fearful of the dentist office, procedures, etc. Ask about parental involvement i.e. are parents allowed to be with children during exams and specific procedures? Discuss your child’s specific disability and needs. Learn if restraints (especially papoose boards) are used instead of anesthesia or other means of care.
Visit the Dentist: Take along your child and visit the dentist office. It can be just to see the waiting room and get a feel for the place, or for your child to sit in the chair, meet some of the staff, see some of the tools that are used, etc. The best first dental visit is when your child doesn’t need one – there’s not a cavity, or a toothache, etc.
Oral health care is important for the overall health of all children, but some children with special needs may fear going to the dentist, need modifications during dental visits, and may require more frequent and intensive visits. Finding the right pediatric dentist for your special needs child will lessen anxiety and worry for both you and your child and prevent serious dental problems.
What have you done to find the perfect dentist for your child?