According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), children should have their first appointment by the time they reach the age of 1, or when their first tooth appears. Your pediatrician, family, and friends are all good sources for referrals to qualified pediatric dentists, and you can additionally search the AAPD website for connections to professionals in your area.
As your child grows up, his or her dentist will provide regular exams and advise you about specific concerns, such as whether to use a pacifier or how to deal with unhealthy habits such as teeth grinding. Your child’s dentist will check the growth patterns of the teeth and advise you on any necessary orthodontic treatments. And if your active child loses or damages a tooth through injury, your pediatric dentist will understand the best way to deal with the problem.
In addition, you will want to ask about his or her education and experience. A pediatric dentist will typically possess an additional two years of residency focused on caring for babies, children, and young adults, as well as for youth with special needs.
Your child’s dentist will serve as a source of education for you and your child, so take time to select a professional who makes both of you feel welcome. Does the dentist maintain a friendly, child-accessible office? Does the dentist listen to you and your child and give him or her information about what to expect from procedures? How does the dentist react when your child is afraid or becomes loud or restless? Does the dentist provide an authoritative but reassuring presence? It will be important to observe how your child and the dentist get along on a personal level.