Pediatric dentists (or pedodontists) are qualified to meet the dental needs of infants, toddlers, school-age children, and adolescents. Pediatric dentists are required to undertake an additional two or three years of child-specific training after fulfilling dental school requirements.
In addition to dental training, pediatric dentists specifically study child psychology. This enables them to communicate with children in an effective, gentle, and non-threatening manner.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that children see a pediatric dentist before the age of one (or approximately six months after the emergence of the first primary tooth). Though this might seem early, biannual preventative dental appointments are imperative for excellent oral health.
Parents should take children to see a pediatric dentist for the following reasons:
- To ask questions about new or ongoing issues.
- To discover how to begin a “no tears” oral care program in the home.
- To find out how to implement oral injury prevention strategies in the home.
- To find out whether the child is at risk for developing caries (cavities).
- To receive information about extinguishing unwanted oral habits (e.g., finger-sucking, etc.).
- To receive preventative treatments (fluorides and sealants).
- To receive reports about how the child’s teeth and jaws are growing and developing.
What does a pediatric dentist do?
Pediatric dentistry offices are colorful, fun, and child-friendly. Dental phobias are often rooted in childhood, so it is essential that the child feel comfortable, safe, and trusting of the dentist from the outset.
The pediatric dentist focuses on several different forms of oral care:
Prevention – Tooth decay is the most prevalent childhood ailment. Fortunately, it is almost completely preventable. Aside from providing advice and guidance relating to home care, the pediatric dentist can apply sealants and fluoride treatments to protect tooth enamel and minimize the risk of cavities.
Early detection – Examinations, X-rays, and computer modeling allow the pediatric dentist to predict future oral problems. Examples include malocclusion (bad bite), attrition due to grinding (bruxism), and jaw irregularities. In some cases, optimal outcomes are best achieved by starting treatment early.
Treatment – Pediatric dentists offer a wide range of treatments. Aside from preventative treatments (fluoride and sealant applications), the pediatric dentist also performs pulp therapy and treats oral trauma. If primary teeth are lost too soon, space maintainers may be provided to ensure the teeth do not become misaligned.
Education – Education is a major part of any pediatric practice. Not only can the pediatric dentist help the child understand the importance of daily oral care, but parents can also get advice on toothpaste selection, diet, thumb-sucking cessation, and a wide range of related topics.
Updates – Pediatric dentists are well informed about the latest advances in the dentistry field. For example, Xylitol (a naturally occurring sugar substitute) has recently been shown to protect young teeth against cavities, tooth decay, and harmful bacteria. Children who do not see the dentist regularly may miss out on both beneficial information and information about new diagnostic procedures.