Your child will encounter numerous medical professionals from the moment they are born. These people are there for your child as much as they are there for you to answer questions, diagnose illness, and ensure overall health. Some children only ever see the family doctor, while others may need an allergist or orthodontist. Here are just some of the medical professionals your child may come in contact with.
The choice between a pediatrician (a doctor who treats children only) and a family physician or general practitioner is one for you to make. Both can meet the needs of your child including:
- annual physical exams
- disease care
- treatment of common illnesses
Most people opt for a pediatrician, especially in the youngest years. These doctors specialize in treating only children. However, seeing a family doctor means your child could be with the same doctor their entire life. If your child sees a pediatrician they will usually switch to a general practitioner after puberty is complete. This is around 16 or 17 years of age.
When your child develops his or her first tooth, it’s a time to time to think about a dentist. The American Dental Association recommends that children have their first dental appointment within six months of cutting their first tooth and no later than their first birthday. This visit largely entails a physical exam of the mouth and an information session for you. Early examinations will help protect your child’s teeth and set up a lifetime of good dental health. Follow the first trip with semiannual visits for teeth cleaning and exams. The dentist will do X-rays as the child gets older to ensure all of the teeth are coming in properly and there are no cavities.
Many children require treatment by an orthodontist. This is a doctor that is specially trained to deal with braces. If your child’s adult teeth are coming in crooked, your dentist could refer you to an orthodontist to see if braces may help.
Your child will first have their eyes examined in the delivery room. The attending doctor will inspect their eyes and how they respond to light. Their pediatrician will then periodically perform tests, as will their school nurse. But when a vision problem is suspected, a complete screening is needed. Both optometrists and ophthalmologists specialize in the treatment of eyes and problems affecting the eyes. Both are often referred to as “eye doctors.” The difference is that an ophthalmologist can perform surgeries, while an optometrist cannot.
Your child may be referred to the eye doctor by their primary care doctor, by the school nurse, or even by their teacher. If your child seems to squint or moves closer to an object they are trying to read, it could be a sign that they need glasses.
The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommends that each young woman have her first gynecological visit between the ages of 13 and 15, regardless of sexual activity. This doesn’t mean she will have her first pelvic exam or Pap smear. The first visit lays the groundwork for future visits and provides an opportunity for the doctor to discuss periods, cramps, sex, and birth control needs.
Depending on your child’s health, they could see many other medical professionals. Someone who struggles with allergies, for instance, may see an allergist. Recurring throat or ear infections could lead them to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor. Generally, your child’s pediatrician or family doctor will refer you to the medical professionals your child needs to see, if any.