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What Is Pediatric Dentistry?

The blog post "What Is Pediatric Dentistry?" serves as an informative guide to the specialized field of pediatric dentistry. It explains the unique training and role of pediatric dentists in promoting oral health from infancy through adolescence, including for children and adults with special needs. The article discusses the importance of early dental care, common conditions treated by pediatric dentists, and techniques used to create a child-friendly dental experience.

Sometimes also referred to as pedodontics, pediatric dentistry is classified as a form of dentistry that deals with children's dental health. Pediatric dentists are trained to treat children from infancy through to their teenage years, as well as both children and adults with special needs.

Pediatric dentists usually receive two more years of training after obtaining their dental qualification.

Why is this dental field important?
Most babies get their first tooth at around six months and most children lose their first milk teeth by ages 6 or 7. Because oral health has a direct impact on a person's overall health, good oral hygiene must be practiced from a very young age. Without appropriate dental care, children risk developing early cavities, gum disease, and tooth decay.

Teaching a child good oral hygiene habits not only protects their milk teeth but also paves the way for good habits as they get older. Pediatric dental specialists typically recommend that parents start caring for their children's teeth when their baby's first tooth comes in. You should also schedule a dental visit for your baby just before or after their first birthday. Comprehensive dental examinations should be performed regularly to be able to offer prompt treatment in case of any dental issues.

It is also important to find a dentist that you and your child gets along with and trusts, as this will make going to the dentist a positive experience. Pediatric dentists are trained to work with children in a gentle and understanding manner.

Which conditions do pediatric dentists commonly deal with? 

Malocclusion or misalignment 
Malocclusion, or misaligned teeth, is a condition where the upper and lower teeth do not meet when the jaws are closed. This can potentially cause several speech impediments and even disrupt eating. This is relatively common among children, and side effects can include pain when biting or frequently biting the tongue or inside of the mouth accidentally. Pediatric dental specialists are trained to deal with this using orthodontic treatment methods.

Teething issues
Sometimes an infant's first tooth does not erupt until after they are 18 months old. This is known as delayed teething and can cause several complications. These include crooked growth of permanent teeth, deformities of the jaw bones, and hyperdontia (when the milk teeth and permanent teeth come up parallel to each other at the same time). While there is not much that can be done to prevent or treat this, a pediatric dentist can assist you by regularly monitoring the growth of the teeth when they do come in. This way, any possible complications can be identified at an early stage and can be treated before they become severe.

Tooth decay and cavities 
These issues are common among children, often due to the types of food they eat. Because they generally eat stickier or more sugary foods, they are more susceptible to developing tooth decay, a build-up of plaque, and cavities. Even though milk teeth will eventually be replaced by a set of permanent teeth, proper care is still essential. One reason for this is that if a milk tooth falls out too soon because of decay, the permanent tooth that follows could be misaligned.

Which techniques are used in pediatric dentistry?
Going to the dentist can be intimidating or frightening for many children. For this reason, pediatric dentists are equipped to make them feel comfortable and treat them appropriately. Viewing and treating dentistry from a child's perspective can make it less stressful for them.Open communication with parents is one of the most important factors when it comes to pediatric dentistry. It’s important to keep parents informed about their children's oral health and equip them with the best practices for maintaining good dental health. Not only this but communicating with the child is equally as important.

Communication using nonverbal cues is a helpful technique in pediatric dentistry. Children sometimes tend to be shy or are unable to speak while a dentist examines their mouth. Sharing hand signals or facial expressions allows them to communicate feelings to the dentist, such as pain and comfort or discomfort.

Pediatric dentists use a child's dental history to offer them the best treatment specifically suited to them.

Children experience routine activities, such as a trip to the dentist, differently from adults. Having a dentist who is trained to treat infants, children and adolescents can make things less intimidating (and even fun) for them. It also ensures that the treatment a child receives is age-appropriate and equips them with healthy dental habits that will last a lifetime!

Additional Information
Recent research underscores the importance of using fluoride toothpaste from the eruption of the first tooth, contrary to previous advice of waiting until age two. Additionally, the advent of silver diamine fluoride (SDF) as a non-invasive treatment for cavities in children is a game changer, offering a pain-free alternative to the traditional drill-and-fill method. Furthermore, there is growing recognition of the link between childhood oral health and systemic diseases, highlighting the role of pediatric dentistry in overall health and well-being.

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