A pediatric dentist specializes in the care of children’s teeth and mouths. Children can have different dental needs to adults, and a pediatric dentist has had specialist post-registration training in the care of children from infancy through to their teenage years.
Dentistry for kids means having a good understanding of the different problems that can be caused as the deciduous, or ‘baby’ teeth are lost and the adult teeth come through. Identifying problems like overcrowding of the mouth, hypodontia (where a tooth or teeth are missing) and jaw misalignment in childhood mean that early intervention can prevent problems later in life.
Dental problems in children are increasingly common as fizzy drinks and sweets are more available, and cavities and caries in children are generally preventable through good diet and oral hygiene. A large part of pediatric dentistry is about education and lifestyle guidance, and good, flexible communication skills are important for anyone who works with children and their parents.
Lots of dentists in general clinics specialize in dentistry for children, and often recommendations come by word-of-mouth, or pediatric dentists can be found by searching for ‘kids’ dentists near me’ on internet search engines. Your local dental surgery may have specialist pediatric dentists as part of their core team.
Dentistry for children requires certain specialist skills, and any pediatric dentist will tell you that education is the key to maintaining a healthy mouth. Pediatric dentists are experienced in working with parents and children to give about the best way to prevent tooth problems and to help parents understand how best to continue this teaching at home. Their advice extends to habits that may cause tooth problems, for example, thumb-sucking or pacifier use.
Pediatric dentists usually recommend check-ups at least every six months, and they will keep a close record of the child’s pattern of tooth development and eruption, identify problems with tooth hygiene at home, and treat any conditions or cavities that do arise. Children with other health conditions may require more frequent examinations as some conditions like diabetes or some learning disabilities can predispose children to tooth problems.
Children can be anxious about going to the dentist, and pediatric dentists have lots of experience in working with children who find the dental clinic distressing, or who have special learning or behavioural needs. Children, more than adults, are also more likely to have trauma to the teeth or mouth following injuries sustained during sport or play.
Childhood is often the time when tooth alignment problems are identified, and some treatments have the best results in childhood or teenage years, so pediatric dentists have experience in working with children who need braces. This sometimes requires some counselling as children and teenagers can be sensitive about their appearance and may not like the idea of braces or other visible treatments, but specialised dentists for kids are experts in working with these children and finding the best way to manage their care and encourage them to comply with their treatment.