Should My Middle Schooler Still Be Seeing a Pediatric Dentist?
Navigating a world in which your baby isn’t a baby anymore is a new challenge.
No, your little one isn’t exactly little anymore. Chances are, their fifth grade jeans are too short and their voice might even be changing. While they’re evolving rapidly on the outside, there are some pretty big changes going on in their mouth, face and jaw, too.
Entering middle school is a big milestone in the life of your child! With this transition comes excitement and anticipation, on their part and yours. It also comes with quite a few questions.
For instance, you might wonder about switching over key aspects of their healthcare. Once they leave elementary school, should your middle schooler continue to see their pediatric dentist?
Today, we’re here to answer that question and help put your mind at ease. We’ll share why we’d love to keep seeing their happy face, and why it’s best for them, too!
The first reason is simple: Your pediatric dental team is already familiar with your child! We’ve cared for them since you brought them in for their first cleaning, when they were all gums and baby coos.
Over the years, we’ve established a rapport with your family, along with a degree of comfort and trust. We’ve also followed your child’s dental history closely, and are well-versed on every appointment and treatment they’ve ever had.
Worried that your child’s pediatric dentist is only equipped to handle baby teeth? Don’t be.
Pediatric dentists are specially trained to understand and meet the dental needs of children of all ages, from infants to adolescents. In fact, after completing their undergraduate studies and attending dental school, these dentists pursue even more education that fully prepares them to enter this field.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) requires all prospective pediatric dentists to complete a two-year residency, where they’re immersed in both scientific study and clinical experience. During these two years, they learn a variety of techniques designed specifically to help them excel in their craft, including child-related pharmacology, oral pathology, child development, and more.
In your child’s early years, their dentist’s focus is mostly centered on proper oral hygiene and basic cleaning. They taught you how to properly brush and floss their baby teeth, how to limit certain foods and drinks to avoid decay, and other basic preventive measures.
Now, as your child is entering their pre-teen and teenage years and have their full set of adult teeth, the dentist might introduce other topics, such as spacing, impaction and alignment. This is because as your child grows, their permanent teeth may come in while their jaw is still growing and developing. As such, their dentist may suggest orthodontic services to help prevent teeth crowding.
Ideally, kids should have an orthodontic evaluation around age seven. Why should you book yours as soon as possible, rather than waiting until there’s an issue?
Put simply, prevention is crucial.
Your pediatric dentist is trained to monitor your child’s bite and notice orthodontic issues early. Understanding what’s going on can help you save time and money later. It can also prevent your child from the discomfort that many of these issues can cause.
Most children who need braces will get them around the age of 12, once their primary teeth are completely gone and their permanent teeth have broken through.
Wisdom teeth are your child’s third set of molars, located in the back of their mouth. For most people, these tend to come in between the ages of 17 and 25. When they do, they may cause a few issues, including discomfort, crowing and even tooth decay.
While your middle schooler might still be a few years away from this process, it’s still helpful to have their pediatric dentist explain it and guide them through it. They can talk to them about what to expect and how to care for that area now to avoid issues or problems later.
Guiding Toward Independence
As they leave the comfort and familiarity of their elementary school, most middle schoolers begin to become more independent and responsible. For instance, they might begin packing their own lunches, or they may choose to join a sports team.
They might have a little more freedom, but along with that comes decisions and outcomes that can directly impact their dental health. For this reason, the AAPD reports that adolescents have the highest risk of developing dental caries (cavities).
At this age, your child might be suddenly at risk of a sports injury and will need a custom mouthguard. They may also require guidance on smart food choices to make sure their diet doesn’t become too high in sugars and carbohydrates as they prepare some of their own meals and snacks.
Their pediatric dentist can speak to them about these changes and help them make wise choices as they grow. Then, when they’re around the age of 18, we can help your family choose a general or adult dentist to continue the work we began!
Caring for children is what we do, and we love it.
Are you the parent of a middle schooler trying to make the best decisions for their health and well-being? If so, it’s important to understand how to navigate their different providers.
For their dental care needs, we recommend continuing to book appointments with their pediatric dentist. This expert is familiar with their history and is specially educated and trained to treat a variety of dental issues that primarily affect adolescents, including orthodontic concerns. In addition, they can also monitor their teeth, gums, jaw and facial structure and help you take early action if they notice any issues.
You can request an appointment through our online form, day or night.