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How to Transition Pediatric Patients to Family Dentists

Transitioning pediatric patients to a family dentist can be stressful for your child, especially if they are still young. However, with the right strategies in place, your kids can enjoy a seamless experience that sets them up for a lifetime of better oral health.

Here at the Family Dental Health Center, our friendly experts proudly offer exceptional dental services to patients of all ages. Here’s how you can help your child make the switch from pediatric dentistry to adult care without any hassle.

What is Pediatric Dentistry?

Pediatric dentistry is a dental service that supports children from birth through adolescence, typically covering patients until age 18. This type of dentistry is conducted by dentists who boast specialized qualifications and knowledge of the mouth throughout the different stages of childhood development.

In most cases, parents should book their child’s first dental appointment at age one or within six months of their first tooth eruption. After the initial visit, pediatric patients should see their dentist every six months (although some patients may be advised to follow a different schedule) to stay on top of their oral health and become comfortable in the dental office.

According to the CDC, over 10% of children between 5 and 19 have untreated cavities. Early dental care for children is important for this reason and more. Pediatric dentistry monitors teeth alignment, gum health, oral tissue development, and hygiene, which are all paramount to optimal oral health in adulthood. Some of the primary services provided in pediatric dentistry are as follows:

  • Cavity treatments
  • Dental cleanings
  • Dental sealants
  • Fluoride treatments
  • Hygiene education

Pediatric dentistry may also cover extractions, crowns, and other procedures more commonly experienced by adult patients, as well as emergency care. These services are pivotal in helping patients maintain good oral health throughout their formative years.

Benefits of Transitioning to Family Dentists

When a patient’s time at a pediatric office approaches its end, transitioning them to general dentistry can feel daunting. However, doing so has many benefits. Introducing your child to a family dentist:

  • Supports continuity of care and long-term relationships
  • Delivers comprehensive dental care for the entire family (in one location, at one time)
  • Provides an introduction to adult dental procedures and practices

This change is the best solution for growing patients and parents looking for more convenient options for dental care.

In today’s world, it is commonplace for pediatric teams to transition patients to adult care at a younger age than ever before. With this in mind, working with a family dentist who supports patients of all ages is particularly attractive.

Factors to Consider When Transitioning Pediatric Patients

Approximately one in three adults fail to visit the dentist annually, which prevents them from receiving the care they deserve. A smooth transition will put them on the right path to long-term oral health.

Before transitioning your child to a family dentist, the following factors should be considered.

Identifying the right time for transition

While patients who turn 18 are required to transition to a general dentist, many children will complete the transition a little sooner. Ultimately, children will be ready for the switch at different ages, meaning there is no perfect time for all. 

You will know when your child is ready to transition to a family dentist when they require more complex care or no longer feel at home in a pediatric office. Even if you’re unsure if your child should make the switch, you may be ready for a more convenient, time-saving approach to care for your family. There is nothing wrong with that!

Age-appropriate communication with patients and parents

When offices aim to provide personalized care, they must understand that communicating with a six-year-old and a 16-year-old requires a different approach. Otherwise, patients may feel confused, frightened, or unprepared for treatment.

Working with a family dentistry service that treats patients of all ages ensures age-appropriate communication. When patients and parents have the clarity they deserve, they experience better outcomes for general hygiene and higher-stakes procedures.

Managing fear and anxiety associated with changing dentists

Research shows that over 30% of Americans fear the dentist. Naturally, this fear may be heightened when changing dental offices. A structured and gradual transition from pediatric to adult care should alleviate anxiety and promote a healthier relationship with the dentist's office. 

Parents and family dentists can work together to explain the change and quell any anxieties that may arise. This approach typically yields far better results than an abrupt change without any explanation.

Addressing any special dental needs or considerations

The transition from pediatric to family dentistry must consider the patient's special needs. Otherwise, it could be a difficult transition and impact the consistency and level of care provided.

An office offering comprehensive dental services will be better positioned to continue special care than pediatric offices. Typically, they have more equipment and experience with complex issues.

Strategies for a Smooth Transition from Pediatric to Family Dentistry

As a parent, there are many details to consider when choosing a dental office, ranging from appointment availability and location to financing options. Above all else, though, it’s important to choose an office where your child can thrive.

Here are six of the best tips to help your child have a smooth transition to a family dentist:

  • Pursue information about the transition. Conduct research and ask questions so you can make an informed decision.
  • Attend familiarization visits and consultations with your child. Allow them to observe you as a patient before they enter the office for their own treatment.
  • Coordinate history and documents with pediatric and family dentists for a seamless handover.
  • Cultivate trust and rapport between your child and the family dentist. If you show signs of trust, they are likely to mimic that behavior. On the other hand, if you have a negative attitude about the dentist, your children might adopt that, too. 
  • Employ effective strategies to help your child manage their behavior during dental visits. Bring toys or simple activities to help occupy them during wait times.
  • Offer rewards and incentives to children for transitioning. A treat goes a long way!


The transition from pediatric services to adult dental care is essential to an individual’s long-term oral health. It encourages continuity of care and allows patients to receive appropriate treatment during every stage of life.

If you’re looking for comprehensive and cost-effective healthcare in Idaho Falls, Family Dental Health Center is the place for you. From the first pediatric appointments to adult care, our team of experts is equipped to care for the entire family.

Contact us today to learn more about our services and schedule an appointment.