Finding the Right Dentist for Your Child

One mom’s experience finding a dentist for her kids.

Finding the Right Dentist for Your Child 1

Kari is a girl featured recently in an Shift Magazine ad, and Karalee is her mom. During a recent visit, we asked Karalee a number of questions to get her perspective on what a parent looks for when searching for a dentist. Her responses were so insightful we felt obligated to share her thoughts with you. 

Which dentist do you take your kids to? 

This is the question every parent asks, or is asked, at some point. Providing a response should be so simple, but I have learned after my experience with three kids, it most certainly is not. Searching for a dentist that is the right fit for your family definitely takes some time and thought. 

When I was little, we all just went to the family dentist that our parents went to. Now, it’s a whole different story. One change is that we now have so many pediatric dentist offices to choose from. Some offices have video games; others have playrooms. Some have large rooms with multiple chairs for the hygienists; others provide movies, toys—you name it! In this environment, making a choice can be quite the experience. 

So how does a parent decide? 

For me, I felt asking trusted friends and neighbors was a great way to start. Some may find consulting social media to be a good source of suggestions and reviews. For the most part, the feedback is generally positive and helpful. But narrowing down choices can still be difficult, because everybody’s experience is unique and different, and there are plenty of opinions out there. A third option is to just try out an office and see for yourself. 

What I discovered for myself personally is that there is no one-size-fits-all with dentistry. I looked for an office and atmosphere that matched my child’s personality. With my first child, the videos and stimulation at the pediatric office were really overwhelming for him, and it just made things more difficult. We ended up going the small family practice route, and it worked really well for him. My younger two are a different story. The girls love the kid-friendly nature of the pediatric office. They love having toys to play with while waiting, the movies, and all the action! And now that my son is older, he’s fine with that as well. 

Good relations with the front-office staff are absolutely important. First impressions are so important. They may not always be accurate, but sometimes that’s all it takes to make or break the experience. You start with them and you finish with them. As a parent, I want to go in feeling comfortable and walk out content! 

The most important thing for me is having confidence in the dentist. I have learned that trusting my gut is the best answer. Using this tactic, something nearly universal in parenting, is probably the most important factor, one I think we often overlook. When it feels right, and it’s a good fit, I have confidence. My kids feel that and have an overall sense of security. That, for me, is key. 

Your current dentist wasn’t the first one you went to. How did you end up with your current dentist? 

So, when my son Seth was around 18 months old, I took him in for a cleaning. We went to the office I described earlier, the one with all the video games, climby things, etc. It was also where they had a room with 10 or 12 hygienist chairs. The whole situation was really overwhelming for my son. They attempted to do a cleaning (which wasn’t even as thorough as the teeth brushing that I was doing), and by the time they were done with that, the dentist barely took a look in his mouth. To add insult to injury, I had to write a $275 check for a cleaning and check-up. 

A year later, when I went back, I specifically asked if the dentist could look at his teeth first, because I felt like Seth never even got a thorough check-up the first time. I didn’t want to spend my money again on something that didn’t happen. 

Then I asked if maybe we could perform the check-up in a private room, because I felt like Seth was really overwhelmed in the big room with all the other hygienists. I was given one excuse after another why this wasn’t usual. Finally, they suggested maybe he would do better in their “teen room” where there was less going on. Next, they suggested I go around the corner and act like I’m just stepping away for a minute, because he might do better if I wasn’t there. I obliged. I wasn’t comfortable doing this, and I don’t think Seth was either, but I trusted them. As I was standing around the corner, I overheard the hygienist, in a very harsh tone, tell him, “Your mom isn’t going to come back until you let us do what we need to do.” It was at this point I came back, took his hand, and left, after calmly taking the dentist aside and giving her a piece of my mind. 

To be honest, it was such a bad experience that I didn’t go back to any dentist for six years. When I did, we had two more rather upsetting experiences with two other dentists. So, I took another two-year break until all the trouble with my daughter Kari’s teeth got too bad to ignore. That’s when I met Dr. Vicki. Things went well, but then for financial reasons, we made another change which led to another really bad experience. So, I finally concluded that, regardless of cost, I was going to follow my gut. We went back to Dr. Vicki, and we’re staying with her. I trust her, and her office is the only one where I have felt at peace. 

What are some of the things you like about Dr. Vicki’s office? 

I think my favorite is the up-to-date, latest technology. I can’t tell you what a difference it made. For example, with X-rays, Kari would have nothing to do with the sharp plastic object being shoved between her teeth. She absolutely flipped out. Magic Smiles used a tiny little camera that she was not only intrigued by but was also absolutely cooperative with. The same thing with nitrous. Having a little colored and scented disposable mask (not sure what they’re called!) is far less intimidating than a big gray one with tubes attached to a huge machine. These things might not matter to all kids, but they made all the difference in the world to mine. 

Is there anything you don’t like about the visits? 

I guess there were two things that put me off about my particular experience at Magic Smiles. First, I felt uncomfortable when we talked about the wording on the anesthesia form. Mostly because I was already struggling with the reality of the situation, and I felt like the decision for her to have anesthesia was based simply on the reasonable fear a 4-year-old would be feeling. So when I read on the form, “Your child may need anesthesia because they are not cooperative,” it just put me off a little. 

The other difficult thing is accepting the board they strap the little ones to. That always puts me off, but that’s just a personal issue for me. I realize some parents don’t want to spend the money or take the risk of sedation, so using this device may be their only answer. 

But, as I mentioned before, the most important thing for me is having confidence in the dentist. I trust Dr. Vicki and her staff. I feel comfortable and valued there. My kids feel that confidence, too, and have an overall sense of security. That, for me, is key and explains why we won’t go anywhere else.