Infants to adolescents are the primary patients of pediatric dentists. Pediatric dentistry used to be called Pedodontics. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), pediatric dentistry is a specialty that requires each dentist to complete an additional two or three years of training after earning a degree in general dentistry. Pediatric dentists earn a special diploma, called a Diplomate ABPD after this additional training. Pedodontists are pediatric dentists whose specialty is oral care for children with special needs. These children might have cerebral palsy, autism, or mental retardation.
Child psychology is very important to the practice of pediatric dentistry. Pediatric dental offices are often colorful and set up with toys and books that can help ease patients’ anxiety. Pediatric dentists are trained to adjust their communication to children and always avoid negative words associated with dental exams or procedures. Pediatric dentists are sensitive to the fact that childhood dentist anxiety can have lifelong effects, so establishing positive associations with dentists is paramount.
What Does a Pediatric Dentist Do?
Pediatric dentists focus on maintaining baby teeth because of how those teeth affect future oral development. Baby teeth, which are replaced by permanent teeth, affect the development of good chewing habits and proper speech. The services that pediatric dentists provide for baby teeth influence the child’s overall oral health and hygiene.
Other functions of pediatric dentists include the following:
Education: Pediatric dentists use models, computer technology, and child-friendly terminology to educate children about oral wellness. They also provide parents with guidance about preventing disease and oral trauma while encouraging nutritious eating. Pediatric dentists also help establish dental hygiene routines that parents help children carry out at home.
Growth Monitoring: Dental issues can be predicted by continuously tracking the child’s oral growth and development. The specialized knowledge of pediatric dentists can address issues early, before they worsen. Quickly resolving dental problems can preserve the child’s self esteem.
Prevention: Tooth decay can often be prevented with a nutrient-dense diet and strong oral care routines. In certain cases, pediatric dentists can apply dental sealants or topical fluoride during checkups or dental cleanings. These applications can prevent tooth decay. Pediatric dentists can provide information about thumb sucking, orthodontic pacifiers, or bottle and sippy cup cessation. They can also demonstrate best practices for brushing and flossing teeth.
Intervention: When appropriate, a pediatric dentist might discuss options related to early oral treatments. Symptoms that might require a treatment plan can include oral injury, malocclusion (jaw and teeth alignment), or bruxism (teeth grinding). Appliances such as night guards or space maintainers might be necessary. In more serious cases, reconstructive surgery might be necessary.