When I first started taking my children to the dentist, I chose a pediatric practice. I read that pediatric dentists actually have to complete an additional two years of schooling to learn how to treat children, handle their various behaviors, and even treat children who may have sensory issues or anxiety about having a dentist work on their teeth. I found a wonderful practice in my neighborhood that had video games in the waiting room, flavored toothpastes for the cleaning, and even prizes they could choose after the visit. Because this practice was so kid-friendly, my children actually looked forward to their dental visits.
When my son was about 11, he started to develop cavities. Not just one or two, but more like six cavities in just one visit. By the time he was 16, the problem had grown much worse. He had twelve cavities within a six-month period. Right before we were going to go in for the fillings, he chipped his front tooth playing basketball. I knew my adult dentist specialized in bonding (because he had done a great job for me when I had a chipped tooth) and I decided to take my son to see him for both the bonding and the fillings. At this point, my son no longer needed the SpongeBob videos in the dentist’s chair to distract him or the prize house filled with stickers, so I felt it was time to for him to develop a relationship with a dentist who he could continue to see into adulthood.
For my son, switching to an adult practice was a good decision. The dentist spoke to him as an adult putting the responsibility for the health of his teeth on him. My son began to take his brushing and flossing more seriously and more importantly, he developed a trusting relationship with the dentist. He has not had a cavity since, and I attribute that to feeling more grown up by being in a practice for adults.
For my daughter who just turned 16, it takes her awhile to warm up to people. She still enjoys the fun of the pediatric dentist’s office -- choosing her flavored toothpaste and even playing Pac-Man in the waiting room. On top of that, she has a great rapport with her dentist and really trusts him. So, while she is still in high school, there is no need to move her to an adult practice. Additionally, her practice just added an orthodontist, which makes it easy to get everything done in one appointment.
It is always a big decision to make a change when it comes to oral care for your family. For me, I made my decision based on the individual needs of my children, and I have been very happy with the results. Both my kids trust their dentists and I feel confident in the care they provide.
Medically reviewed by Dr. Natalie Pennington, DDS, April 2019