Pediatric Dentistry – Solution for Children's Dental Problems
There are many different kinds of dentists. Finding the right one requires a basic knowledge of what each subset of professionals can do. For example, while family dentists provide care for both adults and children, pediatric dentists are different. They only treat young patients, usually under 18. However, young adults with specific special needs may continue to see the same providers well into their 20s.
Some parents may be wondering why they can't just bring their kids to family dentists. After all, these dental professionals treat patients of all ages, so what is a pediatric dentist, really, and is there any reason to bring children to these specialists? Read on to find the answers to these and other essential questions.
What Does a Pediatric Dentist Do?
Unlike family dentists, pediatric dentists treat children and adolescents exclusively. As a result, they typically provide gentler care and a greater early education level for young children and their parents. Many pediatric dentists also specialize in working with young patients who need extra care, including patients with disabilities or special needs.
Pediatric dentists provide a range of essential services, some of which go beyond general dentists' expectations. Orthodontic teeth-straightening methods, for example, generally fall outside the purview of family dentists. Still, most pediatric dentists learn how to perform these procedures.
What Types of Treatments Do Pediatric Dentists Provide?
Most parents know what to expect at a visit to a general dentist. After being checked in, the patient sees a dental hygienist for teeth cleaning and fluoride treatments before undergoing an oral health exam with the dentist that may or may not involve taking X-ray images.
During the exam, the dentist identifies problems, such as cavities and other forms of decay, fractured teeth, and gum disease. If any of these issues are present, the dentist can schedule another appointment for essential dental work or refer the patient to a specialist.
Pediatric dentists provide all of these services, but pediatric dentists tailor the services to the needs of young patients.
Pediatric dentists often focus on:
- Infant oral health exams
- Risk assessment for cavities in mothers and children
- Preventative dental care
- Nutrition and diet recommendations
- Early assessments for teeth straightening and a proper bite
- Repair of cavities and tooth defects
- Diagnosis of oral health conditions associated with childhood diseases
- Management of gum disease, including pediatric periodontal disease
- Care for dental injuries
When pediatric dentists treat young patients, they usually expect parents to attend the visits. The purpose of inviting parents to attend is twofold. First, it typically helps children with dental phobias stay calm. Second, it gives the dentists a chance to speak with parents about the young patients' at-home oral health habits, nutrition, and general health issues impacting tooth and gum health.
Why Visit a Pediatric Dentist?
Now that parents have an idea of what sets pediatric dentists apart, it's worth taking a moment to discuss the unique benefits of taking children to specialists. The benefits of pediatric dentistry extend beyond the ability to work on small mouths. Pediatric dentists also excel at explaining procedures to children and their parents and building trust. In addition, they often use communication techniques intended for younger audiences, such as:
- Positive reinforcement to rewards young patients for good behavior.
- Tell-show-do explanations explain treatments in simple terms that children can understand and show them to the patient before the procedures begin.
- A friendlier, more soothing tone helps build trust and soothe worried children's minds.
Pediatric dentists aren't just experts at working with kids. They also know how to educate parents and help them ensure that young patients learn healthy habits at home.
How to Find a Pediatric Dentist
Parents who want to bring their children to pediatric dentists should note that not all practices are the same. Therefore, it's worth taking the time to learn about pediatric dentistry, what to expect, and how to identify a good provider.
The best place to start is to check the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry's website. This well-known and respectable organization provides a dentist search tool to help parents find qualified professionals. There will be many pediatric dentists to choose from in most areas, though, so parents also need to do a little research.
After finding a promising candidate:
- Check the dentist's credentials to ensure they have completed four years of primary dental school. In addition, ensure they have completed a separate two-to-three-year residency training program focusing on providing care for infants, children, and teenagers.
- If the office provides pediatric care, check reviews online before calling to schedule a tour.
- Speak with the staff, check out the treatment rooms, and ensure the dentist's office provides young patients with a safe, soothing environment.
When to Schedule an Appointment
Experts recommend bringing infants in for their first visits either within six months of the child's first tooth coming in or by the age of 12 months. Don't put it off if it's time to schedule a dental appointment for a pediatric patient. Getting an early start is the best way to help kids become more comfortable visiting the dentist's office and protecting their oral health.