Paediatric Dentist – Private or Public? | Student Dental Centre and NUCOHS
Update: 31 Aug 2022. School Dental Centre has been renamed to Student Dental Centre.
Milk teeth will drop, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take care of them and get them checked. They will affect the growth of permanent teeth. My friend’s kid had a bad decay in his milk tooth and had to do crowning. Don’t ask me why crown for milk teeth, but the treatment is confirmed by a second opinion. Other than the pain the kid had to go through, the treatment is not cheap.
Hence, early diagnosis and prevention are important. Moreover, bringing children to the dentist when they are young helps them to enjoy dental visits and develop good dental habits for life.
The recommended age to bring your child to the dentist is 6 months to 1 year, after the first tooth has grown out and no later than 1-2 years old. So book your appointment today!
I would suggest going for a dentist that specialises in Paediatric Dentistry. Paediatric Dentists undergo 3 years post-graduate specialty training to manage the dental needs of children in relation to prevention, treatment, behavioural management and development (source).
Public Dental Options
For the first two dental visits of Grace’s* life, she went to Thomson Dental. However, the charges are quite high, especially when the first visit is just mainly about educating the parents on how to take care of the child’s oral health, and to check if the teeth have any abnormality. You can read more about these in our first visit to the dentist.
If you don’t want to spend a bomb on your children’s teeth, you can consider going through the public and subsidised route. This was what I decided to do when Grace is older now. We went to the Student Dentre Centre. Later, I discovered other options such as the National Dental Centre Singapore and National University Centre for Oral Health, Singapore.
School Dental Centre
The Student Dental Centre / Student Dental Centre* (“SDC”) provides oral healthcare services from pre-schoolers to Singapore schooled students below 19 years. SDC also serves as a referral centre for more complex treatment.
In SDC, patients are strictly seen by appointment only. You can only book appointment 4 months in advance.
*School Dental Centre has been renamed to Student Dental Centre in 2022.
National Dental Centre Singapore
NDCS provides multidisciplinary specialist care for complex dental conditions, such as orthodontics, prosthodontics, endodontics, periodontics, and paediatric dentistry.
Be careful not to mix up SDC with the Paediatric Dentistry at National Dental Centre Singapore (“NDCS”). SDC does basic checks and cleaning while NDCS can do more complicated procedures like the root canal. SDC and NDCS are next-door neighbours, so be sure to go to the correct one!
A friend paid S$127 as a private patient: S$85 for consultation, S$16 for the topical fluoride for the child’s chipped tooth, and S$18 for consumables.
If get a referral from the polyclinic, you can get a subsidised rate of about 50%. Once you are at NDCS, request to join the pediatric dental program.
National University Centre for Oral Health, Singapore
National University Centre for Oral Health, Singapore (“NUCOHS”) is relatively new, officially opened in July 2019. According to its press release,
NUCOHS synergises clinical services, education and research facilities under one roof. It is also equipped with patient-centred facilities to manage the needs of patients from young children to the elderly, including patients with special needs and those with multiple coexisting medical conditions.
Based on Google reviews, patients seem to prefer NUCOHS (4.4 stars) to NDCS (2.9 stars). You can also get a referral from the polyclinic to enjoy subsidised rates at NUCOHS. If not, you can visit as a private patient. Here is NUCOHS’s fee schedule. Subsidised rates will become private rates if the patient didn’t visit the dentist for one year.
Experience at NUCOHS
I was looking for an alternative to the School Dental Centre and found good online reviews of NUCOHS. Hence I got a referral from the polyclinic to get subsidised rates at NUCOHS. The rates are in between that of the School Dental Centre and private dentists and hence more palatable.
“They have no major issues with their teeth. I should be able to discharge them during the next visit,” the dentist told me. Eh? I didn’t realise the referral is meant for patients with serious dental problems. I was hoping to continue at NUCOHS because the fees are more palatable than private, and the dentist feels more experienced and friendlier than the one at School Dental Centre. We visited the dentist in her room, but outside the room, there are cubicles that are similar to those at SDC.
We went for Joy’s* last dental visit at NUCOHS on 10 May 22. Grace has been discharged, and so is Joy. The dentist suggested bringing my girls to the polyclinic dental. She said they are the primary care providers and they at NUCOHS are considered tertiary care, more for serious dental problems and children who are afraid to visit the dentist. Once the children are not resistant to the dentists, they can be discharged too.
Experience at School Dental Centre
Seated among the rows of seats near the receptionists, our queue number flashed, along with the dentist’s number. We pushed the glass door to enter and were greeted by rows of dentist cubicles. I was quite taken aback by the mass market factory impression. Or rather, it was like a big office with many cubicles, except within each cubicle is a dentist and a dentist chair, instead of a desk and a computer. As we walked to the cubicle number, Grace couldn’t help but touch the colourful decals on the wall.
The cubicle was not as welcoming as the dentist’s room at Thomson Dental.
At SDC, the setup feels simple and clinical. I don’t recall having toys around, or rather the dentist didn’t even bother to “entertain” and ease the little one with toys. Just a small sticker at the end for her bravery.
Perhaps we were the last patient of the day, the dentist looked kind of jaded from her work and going through the motion. “Next, please,” was her look. She didn’t even try to make Grace feel welcomed or comfortable. While I was in there, I was thinking, “good thing this is not Grace’s first visit to the dentist”.
We didn’t need to wait long as the last appointment of the day. Then again, I would advise you to be the first patient of the day, because it meant a more energetic dentist and a definite short wait.
Consultation and Cleaning
When Grace was younger, she didn’t even need me to sit with her when the dentist checked. Here at SDC, she wanted to sit on me. I thought it was simply because she’s older now, and more conscious of pain and fear.
Grace brushed her teeth twice daily, but she still has very visible yellow stains. The dentist couldn’t tell me why until I suggested it could be because she likes to pocket food and drinks in her mouth.
The dentist said to come back again when she’s older for cleaning. But Grace had cleaned her teeth before when she was younger, so I said just go ahead. I don’t know if it’s the dentist’s skill or just Grace’s age, we only managed to get a few teeth cleaned as opposed to the whole set at Thomson Dental.
I knew it would be affordable at SDC, but it was still much cheaper than I expected. I was surprised when I got the bill: the consultation was free, while the cleaning was only S$9. I overheard someone asking the cashier when her number would be called, only to be told there’s no payment required, so she could have left.
My conclusion: It’s definitely 一分钱一分货, you get what you pay for.
Still, I would recommend Student Dental Centre for your child’s first visit, provided there are no serious teeth problems. Under normal circumstances, the dentist would not recommend cleaning during the first session. You can make an appointment at HealthHub website or the HealthHub mobile app, or you can go direct to the form HealthHub will lead you to: form.gov.sg/#!/5bf628bb576c3e001078fdb1
“Do you like it here?” I asked Grace, hoping she would say yes because SDC is super affordable. “No,” she replied, “I like the crocodile dentist.” That’s the friendly Thomson Dental dentist, Dr Tabitha who sang to her to ease her fears while checking her teeth. The room was also filled with toys, and there was the crocodile toy. She has since opened up her own clinic. You can read more about the clinic and my girls’ dental journey in my subsequent post.
Refer to all my articles about dental care at: baby.joogostyle.com/tag/dentist. There’s another article I recommend reading before your child’s first dental visit: doctorxdentist.com/childs-first-dental-visit-singapore.
*Not their first names.
Let me know other dentists you are considering. I love to check them out. Also, do share your experience with paediatric dentists in the comments section below. 🙂
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A professional paediatric dentist would have completed a doctorate in Paediatric Dentistry and is committed to providing quality dental treatment to children in a child-friendly environment. A harmonious balance of personal care, high-technology and education offers a commitment to children in every facet of Paediatric Dentistry.