When to Transition Your Child to an Adult Dentist

With toys, video games, and movies to distract and entertain, pediatric dental practices put the fun in early-stage dental care. That’s because providing effective oral health care to tiny toddlers and growing children is no easy feat. Pediatric dentists are specially trained to treat children and their unique dental needs, all while keeping their young patients calm and entertained.

If you’ve got young kids, you may wonder if they need to see a pediatric dentist. And if your kids have been receiving dental care from a pediatric practice, when and how do you make the switch to an adult dentist? We’ve got some tips and guidelines to follow as you consider what’s best for your children:

Pediatric Dentist vs. General Dentist

Pediatric dentists limit their practice to treating children only. They receive two to three years of special postgraduate training in their field, focusing on preventive care for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special needs.

Children often can’t advocate for themselves or clearly explain issues they may experience related to their dental health. Pediatric dentists are specially trained to communicate with patients and families and learn how to create a calm atmosphere for young patients. However, general dentist offices, like CNS Dental, are equipped to treat both pediatric and adult patients and will refer any issues that require unique attention to a specialist.

Teenage Teeth and Changing Attitudes

When children reach adolescence, all kinds of things are changing, from their smile to their stance on “kid-like” stuff. One major milestone for many teens is the need for orthodontic treatment. Dentists will spot changes in a young person’s mouth as their permanent teeth come in and recommend early orthodontic treatment when appropriate. Your child’s dentist also keeps a close eye on their wisdom teeth through annual x-rays and exams and will recommend when and if they need to be removed.

As teenagers inch toward adulthood, their dental needs are more adult-like – if they’ve been seeing a pediatric dentist, they may be ready to graduate to a general dental practice. Adult dental offices make them feel more “grown up”and adult dentists are typically better equipped to treat more complicated issues like wisdom teeth removal, root canals, crowns, and implants. Depending on the individual child’s needs and comfort level, parents often opt to switch their children to an adult dentist in middle or early high school.

Transitioning to a General Dentist

In making the switch from a pediatric dentist to an adult dentist, there are no hard and fast rules. Most pediatric dentists will see patients until they turn 18, but many dentists recommend switching to a general dentist when a child has all of their adult teeth, usually around age 14. No matter their comfort level, at some point your child will need to cut the cord with their pediatric dentist. Adolescence can be a great time to establish an ongoing relationship with a general dentist.

Start by asking your child if they are still happy going to a children’s dentist or if they’re ready to see a dentist that treats adults. Talk to the dental practice you’re considering – your own dental practice is a great starting point – and find out if they recommend an age to transition out of pediatric care. Be sure to ask if they treat patients under age 18. If your child is transitioning to an adult dentist before heading to college, ask your pediatric dentist for some referrals – a reputable dentist will do some research for you and help you find a few dentists to recommend in that area.

Finally, if possible, make sure your child has completed unfinished restorations or treatments before transitioning to an adult dentist and ensure any important records, photos, and x-rays can be made available to the new dentist.

Considering making the switch for your child from a pediatric dentist to an adult dentist? Our team at CNS Dental sees both pediatric patients and adults – but we’re also experienced at helping your child make a smooth transition from a pediatric dental practice. Contact CNS Dental at (703) 304-3881 to schedule a consultation or appointment!