I’d like to know when it’s necessary for a child to visit a pediatric dentist versus a general family dentist. My ex-wife and I have joint decision-making rights with the kids, but the way our parenting and support agreements are set up, she usually makes the appointments and takes the kids and I’m responsible for paying 80% of any bill that comes in. Our oldest just turned four and she took him in for a checkup. I was fine with that and certainly support it. The problem is, she took him to an out-of-network provider because there isn’t an in-network one in our area and that means the bills are much higher. Plus, the guy found cavities and now wants to do a bunch of work. The estimates are through the roof. I tried to talk with her about it, but it started a big fight with her saying I only cared about the money. That’s not what this is about at all. I do want what’s best for my kids, but if their needs can be met by our family dentist, then I don’t see the point in paying extra to see the pediatric dentist. I never saw a specialist as a kid and I never had a problem. Since I obviously can’t talk to my ex about this, I’m looking for some insights.
A Concerned Dad
Dear Concerned Dad,
Sorry to hear about your strife. Ultimately, you and your ex will have to come together to make a decision that’s right for your son. As long as he’s being seen somewhere, it doesn’t matter where he’s being seen, but some additional considerations will be outlined below and they might help serve as talking points for the two of you.
What Makes a Pediatric Dentist Different?
Pediatric dentists specialize in treating kids. They’ve invested in extra training in care that is specific toward juvenile development. They often also have a different disposition. Kids can be wiggly or even uncooperative. Specialists work under these conditions all day every day, so they not only take it in stride, but have tools in their arsenal that help make the best out of challenging situations. Personalities differ, so one might start a game of peek-a-boo while another will get the kid talking about something as a distraction, or another might have his assistant pull out a toy or something for the child to snuggle with. The point being, they’re ready for things and expect them, so your child has a better experience overall. Since your son is very young, creating positive experiences now is huge.
He needs to like and trust the dentist, so he should be with someone who can work with him at his level. Just like everybody isn’t cut out to be an elementary school teacher or a daycare provider, every doctor isn’t suited to work with kids. Those who are and who welcome children make a point of accommodating them. Moreover, kids have different issues and needs. A specialist will know kid-protocol better and have special tools designed to work for kids.
However, that doesn’t mean a family dentist who enjoys treating children is unqualified. They can adequately care for your son and even did a pediatric rotation. If they like treatment children, they have those same tools in their arsenal to keep kids happy. If something unique were to come up that required a specialist, they could write you a referral.
Be Aware of Special Circumstances
It may be your son has dental anxiety and needs a dentist who offers sedation options, such as nitrous oxide or oral conscious sedation. This will be especially true if he needs the extensive work your ex-wife mentioned.
Not every dentist offers that, especially for children. This out-of-network provider may have been the only one able to give him the sedation necessary for the work he needed.
There are benefits to him having sedation if a lot of work is being performed. First, they can more accomplish more work in one sitting, which will save you money in the long run because you won’t need a bunch of different appointments. Second, it will keep your son from feeling frightened during his procedures. He’ll essentially sleep through it.
Talk to your ex-wife about the reasons she chose this particular dentist. If you can find an in-network provider who does the same things, it will satisfy you both.
This blog is brought to you by Hoffman Estates Family Dentist Dr. William Becker.