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Posted on August 15, 2014
Why choose a Pediatric dentist instead of a General Dentist for my child?

Pediatric Dentistry is recognized as a dental specialty that focuses on the care and treatment of children and adolescents from age 0 to 21 years and special needs patients. Pediatric dentistry is not simply adult dentistry for baby teeth! Children are a completely different animal than the adult dental patient. Issues of physical, mental and social development play center stage in the treatment of the growing patient. Nothing is static for the growing child and as such their needs change from year to year or even visit to visit.

Prevention is the cornerstone of pediatric dentistry in order to avoid the pitfalls of expensive restorative, periodontal and orthodontic compromises common to adult dentistry. As such the role of the dentist and dental assistant is primarily one of teacher. This trusted individual must have the ability and willingness to teach a child how to act and how to care for herself in an environment conducive to learning. The pediatric dental professional often times seems almost at odds with the medical profession because most physician must emphasizes treatment of disease and have little time to teach or stress prevention. Add to that a parent who may have had unhealthy past dental experiences, and you begin to see what children have to overcome. Children need a children’s dentist!

Issues that distinguish Pediatric Dentistry:

Establishing a dental home: At age 12 months a child should be seen by a dentist. This exam and education does not take place in a dental chair and requires specialized knowledge of infant oral health and developmental milestones. Physicians and General dentists do not have this training.

Working with Young Children: At age two when a child attains language skills the first dental cleanings and exams begin. The child learns to trust the dentist like she would a day care worker or preschool teacher and prevention of the most common childhood disease, dental caries, begins. Working with the young child requires a specialized environment able to understand and help the crying patient, patient with short attention span, and anxious but perhaps unknowledgeable parent. That atmosphere of support and play is usually not found in a general dentist’s waiting room or operatory.

Fluoride Use and Oral Hygiene Instruction: Children and parents learn what is age appropriate for cleaning teeth and preventing problems. Timing of fluoride use in toothpastes in regards to a child’s dental development, cognitive development and weight is critical to healthy teeth and the prevention of fluorosis. Too much of a good thing may damage later permanent teeth. When should I start brushing, when should I start flossing? These are questions a pediatric dentist can give you a detailed, customized answer to.

Radiographs: The first x rays are recommended at age four for most but not all children. X rays depend on dental development, contact of posterior teeth, and ability of a child to help make diagnostic images. Full mouth series are unheard of in children so the panoramic image is used for screenings. Usually this occurs at about age six. Caries risk factors are also taken into account when prescribing x rays and assigning frequency. Your pediatric dentist will customize a regimen that maximizes the images and minimizes radiation.

Sealants: Controversy continues about the use of sealants. As young permanent teeth erupt into the mouth they are not yet as mineralized as they will become and very vulnerable to caries. Use of selective enamelplasty and sealing of the grooves will prevent up to 85% of childhood caries in pits and fissures. Timing and technique is essential to preventing fillings that would require maintenance and replacement throughout adulthood. Sealants are the bread and butter of a preventive oriented practice, and don’t think practice doesn’t count when working with wiggly kids!

Orthodontics: Almost 70% of children in the mixed dentition (some permanent teeth in) will have developing malocclusions (crooked teeth or skeletal growth disturbances.) These can be accurately predicted as early as age three. Early, limited braces, selective tooth removal and other appliances in the mixed dentition can save a child months if not years in braces and their parents hundreds if not thousands of dollars. For some children, early non orthodontic management of dental malocclusion is the only option. A thorough understanding of dental and skeletal growth by the pediatric dentist is required to treat these children. More than any other health professional, a pediatric dentist with orthodontic training is the best professional to asses the ongoing growth of your child.