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Unique ways to choose your child's dentist

From office decor to sedation dentistry

unique ways to choose a hudson valley dentist

For many of us, our semi-annual visit to the dentist sparks dread. In spite of knowing better, visions of the demented dentist from Little Shop of Horrors may flit before our eyes.

Saugerties mom of three Gloria Darmanin experienced this fear, and wanted it to be different for her children. She says “I hate going to the dentist. I hate the sounds. I hate the feelings. I didn't want my children to feel that way.” After researching dentists with whom she felt comfortable, Darmanin found a dentist that, not only does she love, but her children do, too. She says, “I now have two sons who go every six months for a checkup and cleaning. They are excited to go.

READ MORE: 5 key questions to ask your child's dentist

Find an office your kids are excited to visit. 

So how can parents, especially those with their own dental phobia, choose a practitioner that not only is skilled, but also makes their children excited to visit?

One of the simplest things a parent can do when researching dentists is to ask around. Geri-Lynn Waldman of Hudson Valley Pediatric Dentistry says, “Word of mouth is always a good way to find a dentist for your child. Parents can ask other parents in the area who they've used and if they had positive experiences with them.” One place parents can do this is on local Facebook parenting groups.

Darmanin says while she was looking for a dentist, she would see comments in these groups regarding dentists who rushed to procedures and knew to avoid those.

Once you have narrowed it down to a few, it's time to look more closely. Waldman says since the first visit is typically just a consultation, there is no need to schedule a visit beforehand. Pediatric Dentist Dayna Olstein of Orange County Pediatric Dentistry in Monroe agrees, “It is not absolutely necessary to meet with your child's potential dentist in advance, however parents should do what makes them most comfortable.”

Instead, both practitioners advise visiting the dentist's website, where there are often tours of the office space posted. These visual tours can give parents a sense of how child friendly the office truly is. Darmanin says the kid-friendly pirate décor, along with toys and tablets for children to play with, was part of the reason she chose to take her children to Seven Seas Pediatric Dentistry in Wappingers Falls.

Interview staff on the phone

Contacting the practice via phone or email to ask questions is also important, according to Waldman. She encourages parents to ask what kind of experience and training the dentist has had working with children, and suggests asking about the use of sedation if the child is anxious, and the dentist’s availability for after-hours emergencies.

Waldman says, After dental school, those specializing in pediatric dentistry take an additional two years of a residency training program dealing exclusively with children after dental school to specialize solely on the needs of children. Olstein says, During these tow years, pediatric dentists gain knowledge on how to treat infants, children and adolescents. Pediatric dentists enjoy working with children and bring an expertise in childhood behavior and management to their practice.

READ MORE: How to make the most of your child's trip to the dentist

Need a dentist for your child with special needs?

Beyond these questions, parents of children with special needs may have other concerns. Waldman suggests directly asking whether the dentist “has training and experience with special needs children. Most pediatric dentists are comfortable treating children with special needs, but some family dentists may be equipped to treat special needs patients as well if they had additional training in this area.”

She adds “it's also important to ask if the office offers sedation dentistry since many special needs patients may benefit from sedation dentistry if they are very fearful or unable to sit in the chair comfortably for treatment.” Olstein agrees that parents should discuss their children's preferences and needs prior to the first appointment.

She says “if a child has sensory or developmental delays it is important to discuss your child's specific needs with the dentist. For example, some children do best with limited sounds while others are best if they have distractions or bring headphones. Some parents will bring toothpaste from home if their child is very sensitive to specific tastes. The best thing to do is discuss your child's individual needs with the doctor ahead of time.”

The most valuable clue as to whether the dentist is a good fit for your child, though, is the first visit. Waldman says “in order to determine if you're happy with an office you're going to need to have them see your child at least once to get a feel for the interaction between your child and the hygienist and/or dentist.”

NEED A DENTIST? Check out our Health Guide to find one

Darmanin says it was watching the interaction between her son and Doctor Evan that sealed the deal for her. “Doctor Evan took his time talking and playing, even going as far as having a water fight with the tool that rinses your mouth.” Seeing that not only alleviated her own fears, but convinced her she had found the right fit for her family.

Dawn Green is a freelance writer who lives in Saugerties with her two creative and adorable sons.