Pediatric Dentistry – The Specialty That Treats Infants, Children, and Teenagers With Special Needs

Pediatric dentistry is the specialty that treats infants, children, and teenagers with special needs. This includes patients with medical, behavioral, and dental problems.

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Pediatric dentists have extra training in working with young children and can make a trip to the dentist more pleasant for them. They also have smaller medical tools that fit into a child’s mouth better.

Dental Hygiene

Getting kids to maintain a healthy oral care routine can be a challenge. But if you start them off right, they’ll have healthy teeth for their entire lives. Pediatric dentists have the expertise to help children build good dental habits at a young age, which will last well into adulthood.

It’s a great idea to introduce your child to a pediatric dentist as soon as their first tooth appears or by their first birthday. This is because a dentist who specializes in treating children has gone through additional post-graduate training and can work with kids to ensure their experience is as comfortable as possible, which may prevent them from developing a lifelong fear of the dentist.

A pediatric dentist will also be able to provide parents with valuable information about caring for their child’s mouth and teeth. This may include nutritional guidance, dental hygiene advice and fluoride treatments or protective sealants.

Kids should brush their teeth twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush and plain water. They should also be sure to avoid habits that transfer saliva, like sharing utensils or drinks, and check frequently for irregular brown or white spots, which could indicate the presence of tooth decay. In addition, parents should teach their children to rinse with plain water after eating and snacking to minimize the amount of sugar on their teeth.

Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is one of the most common dental diseases in children. It happens when the tooth’s enamel is eroded which exposes the inner dental pulp to bacteria and may cause pain or infection. Children are more prone to cavities because they eat more sugary and sticky foods and do not maintain the same level of oral hygiene as adults. This makes them more prone to tooth decay and other dental diseases like gingivitis, which can lead to gum disease and a dental abscess.

Initially, a cavity looks like a small white spot on the tooth. As the tooth decay progresses, the spots get darker and eventually turn black. If the cavity is caught early, a pediatric dentist can use fluoride treatments to strengthen the teeth and reverse the decay. If the cavities have reached the dental pulp, they require a more extensive procedure called a pulpotomy which involves removing the infected part of the tooth, placing medication and covering it with a crown.

If the tooth decay is left untreated, it can eventually lead to severe problems like the loss of baby teeth too early, leaving no space for adult teeth. This can lead to other health problems like jaw joint issues, crowded teeth and misaligned bites. The best way to prevent tooth decay is by limiting the consumption of sweets and starchy foods, brushing twice a day and flossing once a day. It is also important to drink water and avoid sodas and other acidic drinks.

Dental Caries

Dental caries, or cavities, are one of the most common chronic diseases in children. They are painful, and can if left untreated lead to infections and serious health issues. Pediatric dentists are specially trained to help prevent tooth decay and promote oral hygiene habits that can last a lifetime.

Pediatric dentistry focuses on the unique conditions that infants, children and adolescents face as they grow and develop. It assimilates a wide range of skills, disciplines and procedures from other traditional fields of dentistry in order to address the special needs of these patients [2].

Infections in the mouth caused by the mutans streptococci (MS) bacteria are the primary cause of early childhood caries (ECC) (Berkowitz et al 1975, Catalanotto & Stiles 1976). MS can colonize the saliva of predentate infants through vertical transmission from mothers to infants, or horizontally between siblings of similar age. Once MS contaminate the saliva, it can result in rapid demineralization of the enamel and dentin accompanied by the formation of abscesses or phlegmonas.

Pediatric dentists are also skilled in behavior guidance and can be a great help in establishing a trusting relationship between a child and his or her dental office. This is especially important since kids can be difficult to deal with when they’re in pain. Pediatric dentists are typically able to quickly assess and treat any teeth problems that arise while maintaining a comfortable and calm atmosphere.

Behavior Management

Children require a special set of skills when navigating the dental office. Practicing pediatric dentistry requires patience and understanding, but it also takes psychological techniques that help reduce the child’s anxiety and ensure their cooperation. Without this cooperation, completing treatment is impossible.

The use of different behavior management strategies in the dental practice is a subject of active research. The selection of the appropriate management technique(s) depends on a variety of factors, such as the patient’s age, medical history, temperament and overall behavior. Some techniques such as distraction, positive feedback and physical demonstration of affection may be preferred over others. In some cases, the best course of action for a fearful patient is to refer them to a sedation dentist who is trained in treating pediatric patients under sedation.

To develop a relationship with young patients, Clarke emphasizes the importance of speaking their language. She suggests talking to them about something they are familiar with, like a movie or TV character. She also encourages the use of humor to diffuse apprehension. The use of a Play-doh dental model to show them how the suction, airotor and battery-operated drill feel and work can also help familiarize them with the dental setup. She further encourages dental professionals to notice and comment on the patient’s extremities (hands, feet, etc). This helps build a connection and makes them feel valued by the dental professional.