Were you aware that 20% of US kids aged 5 to 11 suffer from at least one untreated decayed tooth? Or that the same problem affects 13% of 12 to 19-year-olds?
Unfortunately, tooth decay can have a severe impact on the quality of life of children. It can cause considerable pain, as well as short- and long-term infections. It can also mess with their eating and sleeping habits and put them at a higher risk of hospitalization.
Fortunately, a pediatric dentist can help prevent all these problems.
Ready to learn what is a pediatric dentist, and how important it is for your child to see one? Keep reading then, as this post will answer all these questions (and more)!
What Is a Pediatric Dentist?
A pediatric dentist is to kids’ oral health as a pediatrician is to children’s’ physical health. In short, pediatric dentists specialize in the oral health of children. They dedicate their practice to patients who are as young as infants, as well as teenagers.
One thing that separates pediatric dentists from their peers is their educational background. Do note that in the US, all licensed dentists have completed at least four years of dental school. They have also taken (and passed) the National Board Dental Examination.
Pediatric dentists, however, have finished at least two additional years of residency training. This involved specific training for the oral health care needs of infants to teens. Their training also focused on the oral health of children with special needs.
As of the latest report, there were only 8,033 active pediatric dentists in the US.
What Services and Treatments Do These Dentists Provide?
Because of their education and training, pediatric dentists deliver comprehensive oral health care. For starters, they conduct thorough oral health exams, including the infant oral exam. This is an essential examination that lets them assess babies for dental abnormalities.
Keep in mind that one in every 33 babies born in the US has a congenital defect. These conditions can affect any part of the body, including the oral cavity. While many are minor, they can still affect a baby all the way to adulthood.
Aside from comprehensive exams, pediatric dental care also includes the following services.
Preventive Dental Care
These include dental exams to monitor the health of your little one’s teeth and gums. Preventive dentistry also involves regular dental cleaning and fluoride applications. Fluoride treatments can help make your kid’s teeth less susceptible to decay.
Pediatric dentists have what it takes to detect signs of oral conditions in children. During dental visits, your kid’s dentist checks for the presence of dental problems. These include dental cavities and infections like gingivitis.
Children’s dentists also look for signs of possible malocclusions or teeth misalignment. According to some studies, such oral conditions affect at least 20% of people all over the world. If your little one has an improper bite, a pediatric dentist can diagnose it right away.
Pediatric dentists are also experts in fixing up tooth cavities in children. If it’s minor or early-stage decay, the dentist may only have to apply fluoride on the affected tooth. Such treatments can help the enamel heal itself without the need for tooth fillings.
Do note that “baby” (temporary) teeth have more sensitive enamel, though. That’s why it’s best to have your child see a dentist at least twice a year. This way, your kid’s dentist can address potential cavities right on the spot.
If the cavity has progressed, though, a pediatric dentist can fill it up to prevent it from worsening. Dental fillings for children now mirror the color of natural teeth. As such, your child won’t have to feel embarrassed due to having “silver” teeth.
If your little ones play sports, they should have a dedicated pediatric dentist, too. That’s because such games put them at a much higher risk of experiencing dental trauma. Sports activities, after all, account for as much as 13% of all oral injury in kids.
Some pediatric dentists are also orthodontists. Orthodontists specialize in diagnosing and treating malocclusions that cause “bad bites.” In many cases, they can correct such bites with teeth straighteners, such as braces.
When Should Your Little One See a Dentist for the First Time?
By the age of 1, according to the experts at the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. This is usually the age wherein the first tooth erupts.
If your child’s first baby tooth erupts earlier, you can visit a pediatric dentist sooner. Set an appointment within at least six months from the time your child’s first pearly white comes out.
Choosing the Right Dentist for Your Child
One of the key questions to ask when picking a kid’s dentist is their educational background. While all practicing dentists in the US are board passers, not all of them specialize in kids’ oral health. As such, it’s best to ask about their specialty training in pediatric dentistry.
You should also take the time to visit the clinic of each prospective dentist. This way, you can confirm if the dentist’s office provides a comfortable environment. This is very important, but even more so if your child is one of the 5% to 20% of kids who have dental fear and anxiety.
If your child has dental coverage, be sure to ask your prospects if they accept that insurance! Choosing a kid’s dentist affiliated with your insurer can help you save on dental costs. This also gives you peace of mind knowing that your child can get treatment as needed.
Don’t Wait for Decay: Find a Pediatric Dentist Now
There you have it, the ultimate guide that answers your question, “what is a pediatric dentist?” Now that you know how important they are to your kid’s oral health, it’s time to start searching for one! The sooner you do, the sooner you can preserve your little one’s oral and overall health.
Looking for a more detailed guide on how to choose the right dentist? Be sure to check out our complete guide on finding a great dentist then!