What is the difference between a pediatric dentist and a family dentist?
Pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry. A pediatric dentist has two to three years specialty training following dental school and limits his/her practice to treating children only. Pediatric dentists are primary and specialty oral care providers for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special health needs.
In addition to dental training, pediatric dentists specifically study child psychology. This enables them to communicate with children in an effective, gentle, and non-threatening manner.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that children see a pediatric dentist before the age of one (or approximately six months after the emergence of the first primary tooth). Though this might seem early, biannual preventative dental appointments are imperative for excellent oral health.
Parents should take children to see a pediatric dentist for the following reasons:
Pediatric dentistry offices are colorful, fun, and child-friendly. Dental phobias are often rooted in childhood, so it is essential that the child feel comfortable, safe, and trusting of the dentist from the outset.
The pediatric dentist focuses on several different forms of oral care:
Prevention – Tooth decay is the most prevalent childhood ailment. Fortunately, it is almost completely preventable. Aside from providing advice and guidance relating to home care, the pediatric dentist can apply sealants and fluoride treatments to protect tooth enamel and minimize the risk of cavities.
Early detection – Examinations, X-rays, and computer modeling allow the pediatric dentist to predict future oral problems. Examples include malocclusion (bad bite), attrition due to grinding (bruxism), and jaw irregularities. In some cases, optimal outcomes are best achieved by starting treatment early.
Treatment – Pediatric dentists offer a wide range of treatments. Aside from preventative treatments (fluoride and sealant applications), the pediatric dentist also performs pulp therapy and treats oral trauma. If primary teeth are lost too soon, space maintainers may be provided to ensure the teeth do not become misaligned.
Education – Education is a major part of any pediatric practice. Not only can the pediatric dentist help the child understand the importance of daily oral care, but parents can also get advice on toothpaste selection, diet, thumb-sucking cessation, and a wide range of related topics.
Updates – Pediatric dentists are well informed about the latest advances in the dentistry field. For example, Xylitol (a naturally occurring sugar substitute) has recently been shown to protect young teeth against cavities, tooth decay, and harmful bacteria. Children who do not see the dentist regularly may miss out on both beneficial information and information about new diagnostic procedures.
If you have questions or concerns about when to see a pediatric dentist, please contact our office.
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