Pediatric dentists are dedicated to the oral health of children from infancy through the teen years. They have the experience and qualifications to care for a child’s teeth, gums, and mouth throughout the various stages of childhood.
Children begin to get their baby teeth during the first 6 months of life. By age 6 or 7 years, they start to lose their first set of teeth, which eventually are replaced by secondary, permanent teeth. Without proper dental care, children face possible oral decay and disease that can cause a lifetime of pain and complications. Today, early childhood dental caries—an infectious disease—is 5 times more common in children than asthma and 7 times more common than hay fever.
Pediatric dentists have completed at least: Four years of dental school Two additional years of residency training in dentistry for infants, children, teens, and children with special needs
Pediatric dentists provide comprehensive oral health care that includes the following:
Infant oral health exams, which include risk assessment for caries in mother and child Preventive dental care including cleaning and fluoride treatments, as well as nutrition and diet recommendations Habit counseling (for example, pacifier use and thumb sucking) Early assessment and treatment for straightening teeth and correcting an improper bite (orthodontics) Repair of tooth cavities or defects Diagnosis of oral conditions associated with diseases such as diabetes, congenital heart defect, asthma, hay fever, and attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder Management of gum diseases and conditions including ulcers, short frenulae, mucoceles, and pediatric periodontal disease Care for dental injuries (for example, fractured, displaced, or knocked-out teeth)
Pediatric Dentists — The Best Care For Children Children are not just small adults. They are not always able to be patient and cooperative during a dental exam. Pediatric dentists know how to examine and treat children in ways that make them comfortable. In addition, pediatric dentists use specially designed equipment in offices that are arranged and decorated with children in mind.
A pediatric dentist offers a wide range of treatment options, as well as expertise and training to care for your child’s teeth, gums, and mouth. When your pediatrician suggests that your child receive a dental exam, you can be assured that a pediatric dentist will provide the best possible care.
Most families with young children have considered a pediatrician for health care needs that require age-based specialists, and dentistry is no different. Pediatric dentists fill a vital role in oral medicine; here are some answers to a few questions you may have about them.
Pediatric dentists are professionals who have completed a specialized course of dentistry that caters to children who have special needs or otherwise need gentler care. The program consists of two to three years of further training after graduation from dental school. It includes hospital training, where they work with children who have more severe dental needs and emergencies, and training in numerous orthodontic teeth-straightening methods. Pediatric dentists work closely with pediatricians and general dentists, who refer select patients for this specialized dental treatment that requires this advanced training. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) is an organization of pediatric dentists, and its website has a good selection of brochures explaining their role in dentistry.
Pediatric dentists can treat children from birth to college. If a child has unique developmental issues or needs to be seen in a hospital setting due to another medical condition, a pediatric dentist is uniquely qualified to provide that treatment. Often, children with special needs that persist into adulthood are still seen past the age of 18; their pediatric dentist knows their dental history, as well as the special treatment and procedures needed before and during treatment.
All general dentists are trained in pediatric dentistry in dental school, and are predominantly taught by pediatric specialists on staff. Some general dentists are more comfortable than others in treating small children, especially if their practice serves many families and they're familiar with common behavioral conditions that need to be addressed during treatment. But it is subjective to the practice; if a general dentist is not comfortable treating a young or special needs child, a referral is in order. You can search for one near you through the AAPD.
Prevention and treatment are the primary focus areas of pediatric dentists, along with educating parents and other dental professionals on how best to treat their children. Pediatric dentists working in dental schools and hospital training facilities also conduct research to develop better methods of preventing oral health problems in children.
Brochures and educational materials are plentiful online to help parents prepare for their child's first visit to the dentist and to inform them about the preventive oral health care products available to them. Take the first step with products such as a My First Colgate™ toothbrush and matching toothpaste. Ultimately, however, a pediatric dentist can be a helpful aid in ensuring a lifetime of healthy smiles for your children. Together, you can work toward this goal.
About the author: Dr. Huot is the founder and CEO of Beachside Dental Consultants Inc. He has lectured at many meetings, and his past articles have been featured in Dental Products Report, Dental Economics, Dental Practice Report, ADA News and state dental journals. Dr. Huot recently retired from the USAF Reserve Dental Corps after 30 years of military duty, and his most recent assignment was as the Commander of the 920th Aeromedical Staging Squadron at Patrick AFB, Florida. A past president of the Maine Dental Association in 1994 and the 2006 president of the Atlantic Coast District Dental Association in Florida, Dr. Huot is a Fellow of the American College of Dentists, the International College of Dentists, the Academy of General Dentistry and the Pierre Fauchard Academy.