Do I need a pediatric dentist? What’s the difference between a general dentist and pediatric dentist anyway?

Parents come to our pediatric dentistry with these questions often. Many times, the thought of using a dentist specifically for children doesn’t even cross one’s mind until they become a parent themselves.

Maybe your child’s teeth are just coming in and you want to get them started on routine cleanings as soon as possible. Perhaps your child is dealing with tooth decay and in need of dental treatments. Whatever the case may be, we are happy to educate you!

Check out our video where Dr. Jason Horgesheimer and Dr. Chuck Odion explain the difference between a general dentist and a pediatric dentist:

What is a General Dentist?

A general dentist is one who does not specialize in a particular area of dentistry, such as pediatrics, endodontics, or orthodontists, rather they provide a wide range of services. The primary goal of a general dentist is to prevent oral health diseases and promote healthy teeth and smiles. In fact, according to a study published by the Journal of the American Dental Association, nearly 65 percent of all dental procedures are diagnostic or preventative.

What is a Pediatric Dentist?

Pediatric dentists must complete a two-year residency program after they’ve completed the education required to be a general dentist. During this time, a dentist will acquire experience and skills working with young patients. Knowledge is gained during residency programs for pediatric dentists in the areas of:

  • Child psychology
  • Child-related pharmacology
  • Child development
  • Safe pediatric sedation practices

Dental Care is Important for Babies

Did you know that the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends children should see a dentist when their very first tooth comes in? At the earliest, the recommendation is six months, and at the latest, by their first birthday. It’s during this time in life that your child’s first teeth are making their appearance. During the first visit, your dentist will be able to assess the health of those teeth. Following that visit, it’s recommended that they see their dentist every six months.

Sadly, many children never see a dentist until there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Anxiety, stress, and unnecessary fear of the dentist may result in children who were not given a proper introduction and an opportunity to get familiar with the staff and setting of a dental office until they are actually in pain or require treatment.

What are the Advantages of Taking Your Children to a Pediatric Dentist?

Despite the fact that specialized pediatric dentists are available, many parents only take their children to a general dentist, or worse, no dentist at all. A general dentist is able to provide care for your child, but the following are several advantages of using a pediatric dentist.

Pediatric Dentists Can Help Prevent Dental Problems

Like general dentists, pediatric dentists also promote and teach the importance of preventative care with their patients. Children are highly susceptible to tooth decay for a variety of reasons. Dentists who specialize in pediatrics can offer treatments designed to help prevent tooth decay in young patients, such as:

  • Sealants
  • Fluoride Treatments
  • Space Maintainers

In the long run, it’s much easier and less painful to prevent tooth decay rather than to treat and react to problems after they arise. Pediatric dentists are quite familiar with the types of dental problems children deal with, which makes them highly trained to help prevent these from occurring.

Pediatric Dentists Have More Experience Working with Children

Pediatric dentists work exclusively with children. As such, it goes without saying they will most definitely have more experience working with kids than would a general dentist who works with people of all ages.

Why do you want a dentist with lots of experience working with children? Children have unique dental needs. Their teeth are more susceptible to cavities. For children, losing teeth is a normal part of growth and development. This is vastly different from adults whose teeth will be their last set in life!

In addition to having unique dental treatment needs, they also behave differently than adults. Some pediatric patients experience a great deal of stress and fear when it comes to dental treatments. This anxiety is enhanced when they are not used to visiting the dentist, or they have extensive dental treatment needs. Pediatric dentists, such as Dr. Jason Horgesheimer,  Dr. Clark Walker, and Dr. Chuck Odion have unique experience in:

  • Talking with children
  • Dealing with their emotions around dental treatments
  • Easing their fears
  • Working with children who have cognitive, behavioral, or developmental special needs

Both of our pediatric dentists gained experience by working alongside hundreds of patients in a children’s hospital for training, making them well prepared to deal with pediatric dental patients every day.

Pediatric Dentists Know How to Help Children with their Dental Habits

Adults already know how to brush and floss their teeth regularly. As general dentists will typically re-iterate the importance of these habits, it’s unlikely they need to provide instructions on how to do so. With kids, it’s a bit different.

Children typically need a lot of help when it comes to learning how to brush and floss their teeth regularly. Pediatric dentists need to consistently work with their young patients to help them develop healthy dental habits for life. In addition to providing things like fun toothbrushes and toothpaste, pediatric dentists can also help parents develop plans to encourage children to properly care for their teeth.

Pediatric Dental Offices are (Usually) Less Scary than General Dentist Practices

Visiting the dentist can be scary. Even for adult patients, stepping into a dentist office can cause a bit of anxiety. Pediatric dentists are quite aware of this stress and go the extra mile to make sure kids are comfortable when visiting the dentist.

At Redwood Pediatric Dentistry, we use smaller dental equipment that is specially designed to fit comfortably in children’s mouths. Each piece of equipment is introduced to the children just one tool at a time and an explanation is given as to why they are needed. By speaking with children and explaining each piece of equipment to them, the fear of the process is erased, without overwhelming the child all at once.

Pediatric Dentists Have More Training than General Dentists

All dentists have a bachelor’s degree and four years of dental school education, but pediatric dentists go even further in their training. In addition to the foundational education requirements, pediatric dentists go through an additional two years of specialized training, just as Dr. Jason and Dr. Chuck explain in the video.

During those additional two to three years of training, there is a special focus given to:

  • The treatment of developing teeth
  • Child psychology and behavior
  • How to make children comfortable at the dentist
  • Children’s physical growth and development
  • Special requirements for children’s dentistry
  • Treatment of children with special needs
  • Safe and effective pediatric sedation techniques

Are You Searching for a Pediatric Dentist in Davis County?

We can’t wait to talk to you! Children visit us from Salt Lake, Taylorsville, South Salt Lake, and West Valley for their pediatric dental needs. Get in touch with us today at our pediatric dentistry to set up an appointment for your child. Call us at (801) 281-8881.