Introducing the idea of going to the dentist to your children while they’re young means they are less likely to be afraid to go when they get older. Some dentists even recommend parents to bring young children along to their own dentists visits, to help them get accustomed to the experience. The British Dental Association recommends children visit the dentist by their first birthday, or when their first tooth comes in, whichever is sooner.
See our infographic on kids and dentistry for more information on looking after your children’s teeth.
In the UK, most dentistry for children is carried out in general practice, rather than with specialists. Community dental care provides special needs dentistry on referral, and there are about 10 dental teaching hospitals with dedicated departments that general dentists can refer to when the need goes beyond general dental care. But mainly, for general dental care, you should take your child to a general dentist practice.
Here are a few tips to consider when finding a good dentist for children.
Ask for Recommendations
Start by asking friends and family for recommendations. They are the best source of information on dentists in your area, because they are most likely to give you an honest answer. If you are part of local societies or networks, this could also be a way to get information.
If you don’t have friends or family where you live yet, you can turn to online reviews and ratings of dentists accepting children, which are becoming much more prolific with various large sites such as Yelp and Google collecting feedback from patients. Just remember that one bad review doesn’t make a dentist bad — you have to read several reviews to see the bigger picture. Also, don’t be afraid to try out a dentist that does not have any reviews yet. Oftentimes this is because they have a new practice, or have not been part of a service that collects reviews. Of course, it could also be because people have no complaints yet and happy patients have not left feedback.
Check the Dentist’s Accreditation and Specialities
Once you’ve narrowed down your choice to a few dentists, be sure to research their accreditation and specialities. You want to make sure that your children are getting the best care possible. Look out for registration with the General Dental Council, and the Care Quality Commission.
If you can’t find any information online about a dentist’s qualifications, call his or her office and ask. Dentists need to have licensure in the UK, but in addition there is a broad range of skills and qualifications in the industry. If your children need specialised care for things like fractured teeth, orthodontic work, or periodontal disease, make sure your children’s dentist is qualified to handle these.
Consider the Office Atmosphere and Location
Before taking your children to a dentist, check out the atmosphere in his or her office. It’s common for a dentist’s office to be intimidating for children, just like any new and unfamiliar environment. Dentists should have a welcoming waiting room, filled with bright colours and activities to make their young patients more comfortable and at ease. When you go, ask if they are used to treating children and if they have any aids such as toys and books to entertain the child while you’re waiting, if you think this will be needed.
Remember, it’s okay to drive across town to get to a good dentist, especially if you only plan to go twice per year for a checkup. However, if you have several children and make frequent trips to the dentist, it’s probably a better idea to choose one closer to home. Sometimes the location is more important than the atmosphere.
Find Out the Policies
In the UK, some people are eligible for free dental treatments. Children under 18 fall into this category. This service is provided through dentists registered with the National Health Services (NHS). However, it is sometimes difficult to find available NHS dentists near you – they are naturally very busy and are not always accepting new patients.
Not all dentists have the same policies. For instance, some dentists might require a parent to be present at the bedside during dental exams and procedures. However, some dentists might have policies that prohibit parents from being in the room during dental exams and procedures. If you have a preference, make sure that your dentist is willing to accommodate you and your children.
Give the Dentist a Test Run
Going to the dentist is a scary experience for kids. So, you should look for a dentist that makes the experience fun. You need a friendly dentist that smiles and explains exams and procedures before they happen, in order to help your children feel more at ease. Sometimes the only way to find a good dentist is to give several a test run. If you have a bad experience at one dentist’s office, there is no reason you should have to go back.
It can be hard work doing the research to find a good dentist, but it’s worth the time. Your children’s teeth are important to their overall health, so it’s important to find a good dentist while they’re young. Also consider these ways to improve your child’s first dentist visit.
Do you have any other tips for parents that are trying to find a good dentist for their children? Leave a comment below.
GDC number: 81217
Toothpick CEO and co-founder
Prior to launching Toothpick, Sandeep took just 3 years after qualifying to build a successful private Dental Clinic in Central London. He later sold this, in order to embrace and develop the technology necessary to create Toothpick. Sandeep’s mission is to simplify the appointment booking process by bringing together dentists and patients via a live transparent online platform. Sandeep was a former young dentist representative for the British Dental Association and holds a number of Dental qualifications, including a UK Dental Licence, a Bachelor of Dental Surgery from the University of Liverpool and a range of postgraduate achievements. He explained Toothpick to Business of Dentistry in 2013.