Pediatric dentistry (formerly Pedodontics/Paedodontics) primarily focuses on children from birth through adolescence. The American Dental Association (ADA), recognizes pediatric dentistry as a specialty, and therefore requires dentists to undertake two or three years of additional training after completing a general dentistry degree. At the end of this training, the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry issues a unique diploma (Diplomate ABPD). Some pediatric dentists (pedodontists) opt to specialize in oral care for children with special needs, specifically children with autism, varying levels of mental retardation, or cerebral palsy.
One of the most important components of pediatric dentistry is child psychology. Pediatric dentists are trained to create a friendly, fun, social atmosphere for visiting children, and always avoid threatening words like “drill,” “needle,” and “injection.” Dental phobias beginning in childhood often continue into adulthood, so it is of paramount importance that children have positive experiences and find their “dental home” as early as possible.
What Does a Pediatric Dentist Do?
Pediatric dentists fulfill many important functions pertaining to the child’s overall oral health and hygiene. They place particular emphasis on the proper maintenance and care of deciduous (baby) teeth, which are instrumental in facilitating good chewing habits, proper speech production, and also hold space for permanent teeth.
Other important functions include:
Education – Pediatric dentists educate the child using models, computer technology, and child-friendly terminology, thus emphasizing the importance of keeping teeth strong and healthy. In addition, they advise parents on disease prevention, trauma prevention, good eating habits, and other aspects of the home hygiene routine.
Monitoring growth – By continuously tracking growth and development, pediatric dentists are able to anticipate dental issues and quickly intervene before they worsen. Also, working towards earlier corrective treatment preserves the child’s self-esteem and fosters a more positive self-image.
Prevention – Helping parents and children establish sound eating and oral care habits reduces the chances of later tooth decay. In addition to providing check ups and dental cleanings, pediatric dentists are also able to apply dental sealants and topical fluoride to young teeth, advise parents on thumb- sucking/pacifier/smoking cessation, and provide good demonstrations of brushing and flossing.
Intervention – In some cases, pediatric dentists may discuss the possibility of early oral treatments with parents. In the case of oral injury, malocclusion (bad bite), or bruxism (grinding), space maintainers may be fitted, a nighttime mouth guard may be recommended, or reconstructive surgery may be scheduled.
Frequently Asked Questions:
When Should I Bring My Child for a Dental Appointment?
It's important to bring your child in for their first pediatric dental visit by age one or within six months of them getting their first tooth. This appointment allows us to ensure your child's teeth are healthy and emerging correctly. Seeing your child at an early age allows us to build a positive relationship with them that promotes a lifetime of healthy smiles.
What Should I Expect for The First Visit?
When your child comes in for their first appointment, we will begin the visit by getting to know them and you. Our dentist then thoroughly examines their teeth, gums, and jaws to ensure proper growth and development. If needed, a gentle cleaning may also be performed at this time to remove plaque. We also provide home hygiene education so that you know how to care for your child's teeth between visits.
What Are Common Pediatric Dental Procedures?
The goal of pediatric dental care is to help prevent complex issues from forming and maintain the oral health of your child. Primarily, this is accomplished through dental cleanings and proper home hygiene habits. Some of the other pediatric dental treatments we utilize include fluorides, sealants, fillings, and crowns. Our team will also monitor their bite as they grow to determine if they need orthodontic treatment.
If you have questions or concerns about pediatric dentistry, please contact our office.