Should My Teenager Still See a Pediatric Dentist?


You want your teen to love going to the dentist.

How fast kids grow up—one instant you’re chasing your little ones around the room for bath time and reading them bedtime stories, and the next they’re in high school, taking steps toward college, adulthood, and independence. You have to start planning for—and making—a lot of changes during your child’s high school years. And you know you need to start giving them a little more freedom and responsibility while treating them a little bit less like the tiny child they’ll always be in your heart.

As a result, you might start wondering if you should continue scheduling your teenager’s dental appointments with a pediatric dentist or if you should go ahead and make the switch to a general or family dentist. After all, your teenager has all of their adult teeth and is beginning to look—and sometimes act—more like a grownup than a child.

Are pediatric dentists meant only for young children?

As an adult, it’s easy to associate the word “pediatric” with young children. In reality, however, pediatric dentists are trained to treat kids of all ages—including teenagers.

Let me rephrase that. Especially teenagers.

Pediatric dentists are the best at providing dental care for your teen. Teens have distinctive needs when it comes to oral care, including a potentially high risk for cavities and increased risk for traumatic injury. Because they are learning to make their own decisions about their life, there can also be a tendency towards poor nutritional habits which carries with it a higher risk for periodontal disease.

Additionally, there is perhaps no time in life in which we are more aware of our appearance, meaning teens can be particularly sensitive to the aesthetics of fillings and crowns. Combining orthodontic and restorative care is often a necessity with this age group, and the combination creates complexity better handled by a pediatric dentist.

Dental phobia, potential use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs, possible pregnancy, eating disorders—the list for situational, behavioral, and environmental factors that can put teens at risk for oral health issues goes on and on. Perhaps the biggest case for a pediatric dentist can be made by the unique social and psychological needs of this age group.

Treatment of the adolescent patient can be multi-faceted and complex. Accurate, comprehensive, and up-to-date medical and social histories are necessary for correct diagnosis and effective treatment planning.

Pediatric dentists can determine if your teen needs orthodontic treatment.

Pediatric dentists are also equipped to evaluate your teen and decide whether or not they will need orthodontic treatment. In some cases, the dentist will treat your teen and in others, they will be referred to a specialist. Since every person has completely unique teeth—just as distinct as a fingerprint—there isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment model for teenagers when it comes to orthodontics. Most kids do need some form of orthodontic treatment often called Phase I or interceptive orthodontics, but they may need to start treatments at different ages due to the rate at which their teeth have developed and their stage of growth. Pediatric dentists can give you advice about when you should schedule an appointment for a follow-up with them or with your orthodontist as well as give you advice about what kind of treatments your child may need.

Your teen should get to visit the fun dentist.

Not to brag, but kids’ dentists are a lot more fun than adults’ dentists! The dental team here at Must Love Kids works with children of all ages on a daily basis, so we know how to make the office welcoming and comfortable; even though the oral evaluation isn’t what most kids would prefer to do with their day, we’re pros at making it more enjoyable. We’re great at communicating with and relating to teens in the ways that work best for them, so they won’t feel like they’re getting treated like a little kid while they’re at our office.

Plus, it’s much less scary for your teen to begin checking themselves in or going in for their appointment while you wait in the waiting room when they know their dental team well. At a pediatric dentist, they’re able to stay comfortable while growing up and starting to take the reins at their own pace.

We’ve spent years together building a relationship with your teen; as long as your teen doesn’t have particular oral health needs we aren’t equipped to serve, we absolutely want to continue that relationship.

Take advantage of advanced treatment techniques.

At Must Love Kids, we routinely use a hard-tissue dental laser to remove cavities. The laser is a cutting-edge piece of technology that makes treating cavities much quicker and easier for kids of all ages. This is largely due to the fact that the laser is virtually painless, often eliminating the need for numbing shots altogether. Not only does this make your teen more comfortable, but it usually shortens the appointment time by allowing Dr. G or Dr. Mo to get right to work without waiting for numbing shots to take effect. The laser is also quieter; it doesn’t produce any vibrations or make loud sounds like a dental handpiece (better known as a drill) does. When these elements are taken together, they can greatly reduce the anxiety your teen feels during their filling. Plus, lasers actually shorten the length of time that it takes your child to heal.

Pediatric dentists set your kids on a healthy path for college.

Getting teenagers to brush their teeth regularly—let alone floss and use mouthwash—can sometimes seem like a challenging battle. Pediatric dentists deal with teenagers every day, and since they’re able to work with your kids for so many years, they’re able to get a really good sense of your teen’s oral health, dental hygiene habits, changing diet, other habits, and their personality. This puts them in the perfect position to work with you and your teen to build solid oral hygiene techniques, setting them on the right track for healthy oral hygiene habits that they’ll carry through college and into the rest of their lives.

Staying with your pediatric dentist provides a sense of stability.

When your teenager goes off to college, they’ll likely switch to a general or family dentist that’s closer to where they’re living most of the year—especially if they’re attending college outside of Vancouver. If they begin seeing an adult dentist in high school, they likely won’t have a lot of time to get to know that dentist—and vice versa. Even two years as a patient only amounts to a handful of appointments. Additionally, each time your child visits a new dentist, they must start from scratch since the dentist won’t know much about their oral health history—they’ll only know the history you provide. Generally, it’s better to keep your child with a dentist they already know and feel comfortable with until they really hit adulthood and head off on their own. This helps your teen feel less stressed at appointments, improves their quality of care, and adds a sense of stability to their routine and treatment plan.

Your child goes through a lot of growth and change during high school in many ways—emotionally and physically. It’s wise to ensure that your child has a great dentist who is equipped to keep an eye on their changing mouth and able to give you advice on how to encourage your teen to invest in their oral health. If you have any questions about your teenager’s oral health and how we handle teenage patients at We Love Kids, feel free to schedule a time to talk.