Before most parents retain a pediatric dentist, it's important to make sure that the dentist being considered is qualified to treat a number of everyday and not-so-everyday dental issues. What services can one expect from a pediatric dentist? What type of services go above and beyond the call of duty?
The job of a pediatric dentist
Not all dentists are created equal. A pediatric dentist is dedicated to the oral health of babies and young children through the teen years. Whereas adult dentists are familiar with matured teeth and gums — and with the issues that mature mouths develop — pediatric dentists are familiar with teeth, gums and mouths throughout the various stages of development.
The foremost job of a pediatric dentist is to maintain a child's overall oral health. The dentist may do this via exams, cleanings and preventative measures, such as installing sealants. Sometimes, however, maintenance and preventative measures are not enough, and the dentist must equip a child with fillings or crowns, or even perform a root canal. Unfortunately, because early childhood dental caries is becoming increasingly common, many pediatric dentists must possess the knowledge and education to both prevent and treat the decay disease.
Because the job of pediatric dentists varies significantly from that of family dentists, so too does the training. Once a pediatric dentist has completed four years of dental school, standards dictate they undergo two more years of internship training for teens, children, infants and children with special needs.
Services and treatments pediatric dentists provide
The services a pediatric dentist provides fall into one of three categories: Education, prevention and treatment.
Pediatric dentists are responsible for teaching both parents and children about the importance of brushing and flossing. A dentist or assistant might show the child how to hold a toothbrush and how to floss properly, and warn of the consequences of failing to do so. The dentist may also provide dietary and nutrition tips, as well as habit counseling, to perpetuate good oral health and stave off caries.
Prevention is probably the number-one type of service pediatric dentists perform. Preventative care may include oral health exams that assess a child's risk for caries and other dental issues, cleaning, fluoride treatments, and sealants. Sealants are a clear, protective coat a dentist may place on the teeth to safeguard them against sugars and other harmful foods.
Despite parents' and dentists' best efforts, children do sometimes develop dental issues. For instance, pacifier use and thumb sucking can lead to misaligned teeth, excessive sugar can lead to dental caries and high fevers can result in enamel loss. Moreover, many childhood injuries involve the jaw and can lead to cracked, chipped, fractured or even lost teeth. Pediatric dentists have the knowledge, training and tools necessary to treat these issues and prevent further damage.
A pediatric dentist is likely equipped to handle all of your child's unique needs. However, to be sure, always conduct interviews with at least three dentists before deciding on the best fit.
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