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 their 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 intellectual disability, or cerebral palsy.
One of the most important components of pediatric dentistry is child psychology. Pediatric dentists are trained to create a friendly, fun, and social atmosphere for visiting children. They avoid threatening words, such as “drill,” “needle,” and “injection.” Dental phobias that begin in childhood often continue into adulthood. Therefore, 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 a 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, encouraging proper speech production, and holding space for permanent teeth.
Other important functions include:
Education – Pediatric dentists educate children using models, computer technology, and child-friendly terminology; therefore, 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 a 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. In addition, early corrective treatment can preserve a child’s self-esteem and foster a more positive self-image.
Prevention – Helping parents and children establish good eating and oral care habits reduces the chances of tooth decay later in life. In addition to providing checkups and dental cleanings, pediatric dentists are also able to apply dental sealants and topical fluoride to young teeth, advise parents on thumb-sucking or pacifier 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.
If you have questions or concerns about pediatric dentistry, please contact our office.