What’s the Difference between a General Dentist and Pediatric Dentist?

Young girl on a dental chair and a pedaitric dentist smiling

It’s a momentous occasion: your child’s first tooth just came in! While friends and family “Ooh!” over the milestone, you smile too. But soon your thoughts turn to that new tooth and those that will follow. Do you need to brush a baby’s teeth? What if there’s only one? How soon is too soon to start worrying about your child’s smile and whether or not orthodontics will be needed?

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Where do you even start finding a good children’s dentist? Does every general dentist fit the description? Should I go to a specialist in pediatric dentistry (children dentist)? You keep up a brave front for your family, but later that night you sit down at the computer to conduct some research. You know that first impression for a child will last a very long time, so you will make sure it will be the best and catered for children. Moreover, you know the importance of a healthy and good smile and what it can do for a person, and you’re going to make sure your child has the best.

To help you, here are some important variables to consider while looking for a good children’s dentist.

Knowledge and Skills

When looking for an appropriate children’s dentist, you want to make sure the doctor has the appropriate schooling and experience. A children’s dentist will have two to three years of training on top of completion of dental school.

Pediatric dentistry is one of the nine recognized specialties in dentistry by the Royal College of Dentists of Canada. Most general dentists can provide limited dental care to children but pediatric dentists are specialized and trained in this area. They are also trained to perform dental procedures on kids using sedation and general anesthesia to control pain and avoid the development of bad memories for your child.

You should look for confirmation that he or she has experience and is well-versed in child psychology, growth, and development. Simply being a great dentist is fine for adults, but when it comes to children’s dentistry, this specialized knowledge is essential.

Child-Friendly Atmosphere

As soon as you walk in, you should know this is a dental office for kids. Brightly coloured pictures of friendly characters on the walls and a plethora of engaging toys are your first tip that an office really understands children. Is the staff welcoming and cheerful? Do the employees address and greet your child specifically? Reward them every time they visit the office? Do they dedicate a complimentary visit to introduce the child to the dental clinic as a conditioning step (Happy visit)? You’ll be able to tell by how your child starts to warm up—or not—while in the office.

Other subtle details to look for are sunglasses for kids to wear while in the dentist’s chair, kids’ TV shows playing, fun characters on toothbrushes, flavoured options for fluoride and toothpaste—anything that makes a visit less intimidating and more enjoyable.

Care and Services

A fun office is enough to appease your son or daughter, but you want to make sure he or she is getting the best service. Your child will likely be going to this dentist well into the teen years, so you want to ensure the care and services offered are robust.

Look for cavity risk assessment, dealing with dental habits (like thumb sucking or teeth grinding), repair of teeth defects, preventative care and cleaning, orthodontic assessment at an early stage, and care for knocked-out or fractured teeth to ensure you’re committing to a well-rounded and comprehensive dental specialty office.

Dental Care Education

Along with caring for teeth, you want a children’s dentist who encourages and teaches dental care education for kids and their parents. Your dentist can teach you how to care for your infant’s new teeth, as well as educate children on proper care of their teeth and gums.

Ask for Recommendations

The hardest part of finding a good children’s dentist is often the search itself. Ask for recommendations from friends with kids or talk to your pediatrician. He or she will often have a list of good child-friendly dentists in your area.

Don’t be afraid to swing by and check out the office before committing. As said, a proper child-friendly atmosphere can mean a world of difference to your child’s dentist visit.

Nowadays, you do not require a referral from a professional to see a dental specialist. It is different from the medical field. You can approach a dental specialist office without any referral.

The best indicator of whether a dentist is a good fit for your family is in how your children respond. It’s never too early to give your children some control and freedom of choice. Having input in whether they like their dentist or not can go a long way to bringing comfort to the dentistry experience. It is always about the whole package: the doctor, staff, environment and experience.


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