The pediatric dentist must complete a four year dental school curriculum and obtain a Doctor of Dental Surgery DDS and continue with 2 to 3 years of extensive education and training in child psychology, growth and development of children, behavior management, and treatment of emergency situations. Care of chronically and acutely ill children as well as hospital dentistry and treatment of the mentally or physically handicapped patient is also part of the specialty.
Pediatric dentists focus on prevention, early detection and treatment of dental diseases and keep current on the latest advances in dentistry for children.
A family or general dentist may recommend the child's first visit at age 3 whereas pediatric dentists prefer to see children within 6 months of eruption of their first primary tooth and no later than 12 months of age. After the first visit, the appointments should continue every 6 months to maintain a lifetime of good dental health.
Although this may seem like an early age to begin dental visits, our dentists can demonstrate how to properly clean the child's teeth and discuss preventative home care including brushing, flossing, diet and the importance of fluorides. They will also discuss information about early childhood caries (decay) which may be due to inappropriate nursing habits or inappropriate use of sippy cups.
This first visit also allows us to discuss growth and development and detect any defects that are generally easier to correct at an earlier age. We are also will be happy to discuss the latest facts about teething, finger, thumb and pacifier habits and any other questions or concerns you may have about your child's dental health.
Protecting the primary (baby) teeth is very important. Although primary teeth eventually fall out, they play a significant role in the development of the child's future dental health. The twenty primary teeth form the holding pillars so that the child's jaw will develop correctly and the permanent (adult) teeth will come into the mouth in proper position.
When primary teeth are lost too early, the space that is left should be maintained by a "space maintainer" to ensure that there will be enough room for the permanent teeth when they erupt. Many times a pediatric dentist can make a minor correction that will eliminate major dental work later. Primary teeth also help maintain good nutrition by permitting the child to chew properly and are involved in speech development and a healthy smile can help the child feel good about their appearance.
What happens to the primary teeth determines whether the child will face future dental problems in his or her teens and through adulthood. Un-repaired tooth decay in primary teeth can lead to infections and abcesses which can cause defects in the permanent teeth.
To prevent early decay problems, our staff counsels and the hygienists counsel parents on preventative practices. Parents are advised to start the cleaning process early in infancy. Parents should wipe the gum pads in their child's mouth with a gauzed finger. This early initiation will accustom the child to the cleaning process. Parents should also begin tooth brushing with a soft bristled toothbrush as soon as the first tooth appears (usually six to nine months of age). Until proper dexterity is developed, the parent should assist the child when brushing.
A new approach developed to make children's teeth more resistant involves the use of sealants made of special plastic. This material is applied to chewing surfaces of back teeth. Because these teeth have depressions and grooves, they are difficult to clean, which makes these areas more susceptible to decay. The process is painless and the time involvement is minimal.
A broken tooth is more common than you may think. If a tooth is chipped or a tooth is broken, it can often be restored to it's original condition with a plastic material, through a process called bonding. Also, we will want to examine the child's mouth to be sure the injury is not more serious than it seems. Fractures of the tooth's root or injuries to the pulp inside the tooth are not always immediately visible.
If a child knocks out a tooth, there is a good chance it can be saved, if you seek immediate dental attention. If the tooth is not broken and the child is calm, rinse the tooth (do not scrub it) and put it back gently in the socket. Hold it in place with pressure and call the office immediately. If you cannot put the tooth back in place, carry it to the office in a glass of cool milk.