What is a Pediatric Dentist?

Pediatric dentistry is the specialty of dentistry that focuses on the oral health of young people. After completing a four year dental school curriculum, two to three additional years of rigorous training are required to become a pediatric dentist. This specialized program of study and hands on experience prepares pediatric dentists to meet the needs of infants, children and adolescents, including persons with special health care needs. Pediatric dentists are concerned about your child’s total health care. Good oral health is an important part of total health. Establishing us as your child’s Dental Home provides us the opportunity to implement preventive dental health habits that keep a child free from dental/oral disease. We focus on prevention, early detection and treatment of dental diseases, and keep current on the latest advances in dentistry for children. Pleasant visits to a pediatric dental office promote the establishment of trust and confidence in your child that will last a lifetime. Our goal, along with our pediatric-trained staff, is to help all children feel good about visiting the dentist and teach them how to care for their teeth. From our kid-friendly office designs to our communication style, our main concern is what is best for your child.

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?

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. Pediatric dentists are also trained to treat children in a hospital setting under general anesthesia.

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.

If you have questions or concerns about when to see a pediatric dentist, please contact our office.