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Visiting the Dentist with Kids

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Advice about Health > Visiting the Dentist with Kids


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Pediatric dentist vs. (cheaper) kid-friendly dentist

March 2009

Both my husband and I are self employed and therefore unable to benefit from group medical and dental plans. At 2 it's time to take our daughter to the dentist but not sure whether to pay out of pocket Or buy insurance. The dentist we want is dr Matsuishi and I think his standard office fee is $185. Or i could buy delta dental premium at $50/mo. Costly and it still diesnt cover it all. In fact it only covers up to $1000 a year. But I know of two toddlers who've already had $7000 worth of work in their little mouths! (both matsuishi clients). Or...should i scrap the idea of premium dentist and premium dental plan and go where i can afford? Where is that anyway? I have so many numbers swirling and need help making sense of things from someone else in like position. Needless to say, money is an issue. In answering this question, you also have a referral to your (cheaper) but as kid- friendly dentist, I'd consider him/her too. Brook


our kids are 2 and 4. Neither our dentist nor ped thinks they need to see a dentist... happily, both my partner and I have strong teeth (no cavities) which may contribute to their attitude that the kids need not be seen. That said, the ped suggested we carry dental insurance anyway in case of oral injury. we decided not to and so far are hundreds of dollars ahead. So - make the best decision for your family knowing YOUR dental health and diet. toothy rich
If you are happy with your own dentist, just make an appointement for your child with him/her. Although I have dental insurance through work, I never took my daughter to a pediatric dentist. It would have been just an extra trip to the dentist when I could just bring her to my dentist for regular exams when I had my exams. My dentist did say that he couldn't treat her if anything was wrong, but that he didn't mind doing the exam. A few years later, when she got a cavity, she was big enough for him to treat. -- a mom

Dentist only checks teeth every other visit?

Aug 2008

Can I get a reality check on dental practices? I found a dentist in the BPN recommendation archives several years ago. I went in for a cleaning twice a year and had one or two other dental procedures done, and was pleased with him and the practice. Six months ago I went in for a cleaning, and was told that I would not see him for the usual after-cleaning check because ''the doctor only checks your teeth every other visit'' after the hygenist does her work. I was surprised and disappointed because that had not been the case before, but accepted that this was the new policy. I made another appointment six months out, for the one Saturday a month he works weekends. As I settled in the chair, I told the hygenist that I was looking forward to seeing Dr. Forbes because I had a sore tooth. She told me he had just left for the day!! So now that he's blown me off twice, I am looking for another dentist (I'll check the archives again). But my question is, is this now common practice (the hygenist says the ''every other appointment'' is)? All my life the dentist has automatically done a quick check after the cleaning. What am I entitled to expect these days? Not to shortchange the hygenists, but frankly if all I need is a cleaning I could go to a dental school and let the students brush my teeth for a lot less money. Brushed off


I recently had a similar experience with the ''every other check up'' thing with a dentist. I REALLY like the place we go and have been very happy with their care overall. After my last check up, which was only my second one with them, there was an additional $54 charge on my bill. When I called about it, I was told that was for the dentist coming in and looking at my teeth. I was pretty put off. I thought I got the usual ''do you want the doctor to come in and take a look?'' and I said yes, just thinking why not? When I asked about it, I was also told that he only does that every other visit...and it costs $54. That's a pretty steep charge for about 1-2 minutes of work. Since I called and complained about it, they took the charge off my bill. So I will probably keep going to this dentist, but unless I have an issue, I will probably opt out of the $54 look. As I said, I really do like the staff and the dentist. His name is Douglas Gordon in Pinole. teeth are clean
Nope, I've never run into the ''every other time'' policy. My dentist always meets with me and looks at my teeth after the hygienist is done, and so does my 10-year-old son's dentist. (And if you need the referral, my son has been seeing Dr. Perry in Alameda for 8 years; we think Dr. Perry's whole practice is pretty great.) Kathleen
I go to the dentist regularly and almost never see the dentist....I think she only comes in when the hygenist is unsure about something (or if I am having a procedure done, of course). Maybe they do actually have a schedule; if so, it is at most every other visit. The hygenists are wonderful, though. I'd never really noticed it until seeing your post!
I love my Dentist, Caroline Peterson on College Ave, near Broadway- she only checks my teeth after cleaning about once a year also- I think it is because my dental insurance (Delta) only pays the extra charge for that once a year, though they pay for 2 cleanings per year. I hope that solves the mystery. However it doesn't excuse your dentist for slipping out. Next time I would call in advance and let them know you had an issue before the appointment so they could plan on it. happy with dental care
My dentist cleans my teeth himself, so he checks my teeth while he is working on them. Dentists charge the same price when a hygienist does your teeth, but they keep half of the money for themselves, so the only reason to have a hygienist do the cleaning is to make more profit. I would switch to a dentist who will do the cleaning himself. Tell him/her you had a bad experience with a hygienist in the past and are now deathly afraid of hygienists. Loyal patient

Is it "normal" for the parent to stay out of the exam room?

June 2005

At a recent visit to my daughter's dentist, the dentist asked that I not be in the room with her during her dental procedure. I also had my 17 month old son with us, so I could understand that he might be too much of a distraction. The dentist mentioned however that this is the practice at most pediatric dental offices, as the parent might, through gesture or emotional response, suggest more fear or apprehention for the child than if the child were alone. While I can understand this to a certain degree, my daughter is only 5 and I had not until this appointment been asked to not be present with her. It is not that I don't trust this dentist, as I have known her for years, however, the dentist did not like me coming in at the end of the appointment to check in and see how my daughter was doing and I feel that I had a right to check on my daughter.

My questions are: Does anyone know if it is ''normal'' practice for a child to see their dentist without the parent in the room? Does anyone have a recommendation for a dentist for a 5 year old in the Oakland/San Leandro area? Thank you. Jill


It is absolutely NOT protocol to ask the parent to leave the room during a medical or dental procedure (except for procedures like xrays, obviously) I've fallen for this ploy exactly twice in the 15 years and 2 kids that I've been a parent and will never fall for it again. In my experience it usually means the provider is insecure about their ability to work on your child and I don't want anyone who is insecure about their capabilities working on my children. I also very much resent providers making assumptions about how my kids will respond. Just say NO and find another dentist for your child. There is a great pediatric dental office at Solano and Ensenada. Can't remember the name, we outgrew the practice awhile ago. They are often recommended here and are very good with kids though on the expensive side.
just say no and leave
We recently started seeing Dr. Laurie Shepherd, on advice from friends. I have taken both my four-year-old and my six-year-old for their first appointments. I was in the room for both. My six-year-old went to a different dentist two years ago, whose name I can't now remember, but I was in the office then, too.

So I think your dentist may be handing you a line of hooey. If you're not comfortable not being in the room (and I know I wouldn't be), I'd recommend looking for another dentist, and specifically asking that question when speaking with the receptionist. Good Luck! Laurel


That is not the norm at my son's dentist and, my thought is, if it makes you uncomfortable, don't go back there. In fact, because of some bad experiences I had at a dentist when I was a child, I was adament that I be in the room with my son for all procedures when I was calling around to find a dentist for my son. The place he goes to is awesome and many of my friends/family are now taking their children there. My son had 5 cavities filled on one visit and my husband and I both were there the whole time. When my husband showed up as well, they didn't even flinch and just got another chair for him. It is called Alamada Pediatric Dentistry and his dentist is Dr. Perry. I don't have the number handy, but if you want it, please feel free to e-mail me. If you can't make it to Alameda, I do recall that there were a few other offices I had called that said it was fine to be in the room. But, I absolutely think it's worth the drive to Alameda. Good Luck! Nancy
Both of my kids have been seeing dentist Dr. Neil Katsura in Berkeley for years. Parents always are welcome to sit in the exam area (which is completely open with several stations, and includes chairs for the parents to sit in as well)...talk to both the kid and the dentist during the exam or procedure...and there are games for the kids to play, etc. We've all felt comfortable and welcome...able to come and hold a child's hand if needed...The transparency of the whole scene actually has the affect of decreasing stress and normalizing going to the dentist...a far cry from my own experiences as a child.

We also see the orthodontists at Berkeley Orthodontics (which is located upstairs from Katsura's office on Ensenada in Berkeley), and the same protocol exists. Parents can sit in chairs right by their kids and talk directly to the orthodontist and other staff people. I don't know about other offices. Laura


The last time a children's dentist told me I couldn't be in the room with my child during a procedure was the last time we saw that dentist. I've NEVER been told by our other dentist/s that I couldn't be in the room.In fact there were times when I sat in the chair and my child sat in my lap. A DDS experience can be really scarey for a little person. I think it's essential to have mom or dad right there. My 2 cents. anon
As a dentist who treats children, I sometimes find that the patient does better without the parent in the room. But as a parent it would also alarm me that the dentist was upset with you coming in at the end of the visit. There might be another explanation but I don't have enough information to let you know if something was out of line. You don't mention whether your daughter handles appointments well and whether it was for an easy procedure (cleaning/checkup) or something more challenging (filling,extraction, etc). My recommendation for an excellent pediatric dentist is Neil Katsura although he is in Berkeley 510- 848-6494 cynthia
Whether this is standard practice or not, you certainly don't have to agree to it if you are not comfortable with it. If the dentist refuses to allow you in, I would advise seeing another dentist.

I take my 7 year-old daughter to Madelyn Ballard in Berkeley (510) 845-2350). Her offices are ''open'' (no doors!) and I have always come in with her. I even brought my 18 month old son to her most recent appointment. After my daughter's check-up and cleaning, Dr. Ballard had me sit in the dental chair with my son on my lap and just looked in his mouth so he could get used to the idea of going to the dentist. My daughter was initially very afraid of dentists, but has really warmed to Dr. Ballards gentle touch and child-friendly techniques. Ariel


When my daughter's previous pediatric dentist made the same request of me (to not be in the room when a procedure was being done) I voiced my complaint, left the office, and never returned. I found a wonderful pediatric practice in Berkeley (Drs. Wampler, Katsura et al) where parents are always allowed to remain with their children, and we have been happy ever since. Trust your instincts! If this doesn't feel right to you, it's not right for your child. My daughter has had a lot of dental work done and I've always been with her. Ditto for medical procedures. It probably makes it easier for the dentist, but it's not your job to make it easier for the dentist. Your job is to be available for your child's needs. Judy
What group of pediatric dentists has yours polled to come up with his ''protocol''? My daughter has been seeing Dr. Denise Bass Allen in Oakland (763-2022) for more than 6 years, and I've always been invited to stay with her during the exam. In fact, at the age of 3, she was placed on my lap as I sat in the patient's chair because Dr. Allen could see it would calm my daughter's first-dental-exam anxiety. Now she's 9-1/2, and I suppose I could sit in the waiting room, but I want to know what the hygenist and dentist are telling her about dental care. I don't know if Dr. Allen or her partner are taking new patients, but it's a wonderful practice. Lorraine
I have been to three different pediatric dentists and I was encouraged and expected to be in the examination room with every one. One was down in Los Gatos, but the others were Dr. Bass-Allen and Dr. Miyahara. We preferred Dr. Miyahara's office and will continue to see her. Good luck finding a dentist that works for you. Laurel

Pediatric dentist or not?

April 2005

I am considering taking my child (3yrs.old) to my dentist for the regular checkups. I took her to a pediatric dentist the first time, and I thought my own dentist would be just as good and half price. She wasn't to impressed with tricks and toys anyway. I figure that if a problem arises I can always take her to a pediatric one. It would be helpful to have some inputs from people that do it too! Mom


The first time my daughter saw a dentist, I took her to my dentist, figuring it would be nice for her to see me having my teeth cleaned first. And she was tolerated it just fine, but after reading the reviews here about Dr. Bob Khalil, a pediatric dentist, I took her to him for her next checkup (age 3) and she LOVED him. I think she was much more comfortable with the staff, who were used to dealing with kids, and happier in the chair, which was smaller. Now she talks about how much she likes Dr. Bob and how much she loves going to the dentist. Your child might not care, or she might not care until she is older--mine was fine with the adult dentist, but much happier with the pediatric one. A Believer in Pediatric Dentists
I took my 3-year-old son to my regular dentist, and he did just fine. She was calm and matter of fact with him, and he allowed her to do all the necessary procedures with no fuss. Karen
Hi - I'm with you on switching to a non-pediatric dentist. It seems to me that they've got quite a scam going that they can charge twice the prices for the same services as adults get. All for extra toys (like we don't have enough junk around the house to stumble over) and bubblegum flavored toothpaste. After one trip to the ped-dentist I bailed and took my kids to my regular dentist. I figured the same as you, if something comes up that requires someone specialized in pediatric dentistry then I'll go back, but not for regular check-ups and cleaning. Not worth it in my book. - Tired of being overcharged
My dentist said he wouldn't bother taking a child in to a dentist before they are 4 or 5 (he has a toddler like I do). The only reason he recommended taking one in would be if you detected brown spots on the teeth, which would indicate tooth decay. kim
Hi - if you dentist is not experienced with children, I would go to a pediatric dentist. We took our daughter to one for her first visit at 3 y old and they were really good with her and very understanding when it absolutely did not work the first time (they didn't even charge us) -- thankfully, it did work the second time and they were able to examine and clean and polish her teeth (with her lying on top of her father). Ioana
My take on this is that you don't need a pediatric dentist. Much of their pull is gimmickry and marketing, to make parents belive that they have something special to offer their children. We have 2 children and took them to 3 different pediatric dentists in the East Bay in the past 8 years, before taking them to our own ''regular'' (non-pediatric) dentist in Berkeley who my son has dubbed the ''nicest grownup'' he has ever met. We began with a pediatric dentist in a well-respected group in Berkeley after our son chipped his tooth at the age of 12 months. Then when they didn't ake our insurance anymore, we tried Dr. Matsuishi in El Cerrito, with all of his ceiling TV's, video games, balloons, x-rays, etc. It was a tad demoralizing to be called into the ''business office'' of his suite while his employee determined how much of our visit would be covered by our insurance even before our son saw him. A couple of years later, we took our 3 year old daughter to a different pediatric dentist in Berkeley who found numerous cavities and had staffers administer a strong sedative to her in a very traumatic, insensitive manner. We have since learned that much of this work was unnecessary. anon
Go to the pediatric dentist. They have tricks to disarm your little one, and even if you think your child doesn't care, it will make your life easier. Plus they know what to look for, what kinds of questions to ask, how to educate you, how to educate the child. It's very intrusive to have a stranger poke around in your mouth. At least forthe first time, make it a good experience. If it doesn't seem worth it to you, you can always try your own dentist afterward. jan
My daughter is almost 5 and has been going to my dentist since she was 2. She has never been to another dentist. My dentist says that if he finds a problem he will tell me to take her to a pediatric dentist. Funny thing, my dentist is sort of gruff and all business with me, but much friendlier and animated with my daughter. --no cavities
I assume you've talked to your dentist about bringing your little one. If he, she?...forgot..sorry..isn't phased by the cutsey stuff in a ped. dentist office, then your family dentist, assuming he/she is good with kids should be fine. Our kids started seeing our family dentist when they were 5 ish. He's an older guy, very gentle and savvy to kids ways. My older son never knew he was getting a shot because of the way the DDS handled my son and the injection. I say go for it. anon
I was always skeptical about pediatric dentists. I took my first two kids to the same dentist I was going to, but my third child has been going to a pediatric dentist. Now I have to say, I really like the pediatric dentist better. Not so much because I think the dentist is more skilled, but more just the little things. Like, all the chairs are kid-sized, so the kids aren't reclining on a huge chair having their teeth looked at. The waiting room is kid friendly. The examining room is open, so that several kids can be in there at the same time, which I think is comforting to kids. There are chairs and magazines for the parents in the examining room, so your child has you there, and you can watch, without getting in the way of the dentist. The dentists are good with kids - that's their specialty - and they see kids all day long, day after day, so they really know how to talk to them, and make them feel comfortable. We go to the Wampler/Katsura group - I think they are great. Ginger
When my son turned three years old I took him to a much recommended pediatric dentist in Berkeley (Regent St) and it cost me $125!!! The dentist and his staff spent less than 15 minutes on my son's teeth. Well, enough of that waste of money and racket! I sent him to my dentist, Dr. Barry Kami, who charged $70-$80 to clean my son's teeth. They provided him a fun, pampered atmosphere and a great goody bag. He loved it, and I now schedule our appointments together, which so much easier on my schedule. My advice, don't waste the money on a pediatric dentist(unless your child as some pretty serious dental problems) especially if your dentist can serve children well. anon

Dental procedures for pre-schooler?

Nov 2004

i just took my 2.5 year old to the dentist for the first time and was slightly alarmed by suggestions of flouride treatments and x-rays. i'm wondering A) what any holistic health practitioners and/or knowledgable folks out there think about this and B)if there are other more holistic pediatric dentists that people know about. also, how necessary (and how often) does the dentist need to occur at this age, from a holistic viewpoint, and what about the regular cleanings? my son just barely let the dentist look in his mouth at his teeth (of course it was his first time, but still-- the dentist and assistant were very charming and he liked them), and i wonder about having some kind of mechanical thing in his mouth. by the way, i was very positive (both inwardly and outwardly) about the visit, so i don't *think* his reluctance was picking up on any of my reservations. any suggestions? thanks!


I just had a dental visit for myself and asked my dentist when I should bring in my 2 year old. He said point blank that he wouldn't bring in a child until he is at least four, that before then you can't get a child sit still and be treated. And he wouldn't even think of giving them flouride before 5 years. The only time he would recommend bringing a young child in is if the teeth were going brown or black (which would be a sign of cavities). I definitely would never allow x-rays at this age!! kim
In general, I'm fairly conservative about exposing my kids to unnecessary x-rays and treatments. However, when my son was four, we were planning to move, didn't know how long it would take to find a good pediatric dentist in our new place, and we would be losing our dental insurance. So - I let the dentist do his x-rays then (I had planned to wait until 5 for the first set), shortly before our move. Well, it turned out that although his teeth looked very healthy on exam (no black spots, no pain, etc.), he had cavities in between almost every pair of back teeth! The sad ending is that since we were moving so soon, the dentist couldn't fill them before we left. It took quite a while to find a dentist I was satisfied with in our new place, and by the time the cavities were treated, one tooth required a pulpotomy and crown. So - while I don't advocate frequent x-rays, I wouldn't necesarily rule out doing it just once during the pre-school years to see what's going on between those healthy-looking teeth. (We've since moved back here, where we LOVE our pediatric dentist!) anon.
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