Pediatric Dentistry

Choosing a dentist for your family isn’t a light decision, and you have more options than you might realize. Some parents opt for a “family dentist,” who can see all the members of your family at once. A family dentist makes sense for some families, but there are several situations where a pediatric dentist would be a much better choice. If you don’t know the difference between a pediatric dentist and a family dentist, you’re in good company. Exploring your options and learning the difference will help you make the best decision for your family.

Why see a Pediatric Dentist?

Dentists, like doctors, can specialize in different fields. Some focus on root canals, others stick solely to care of the gums, and a select few choose to work with children. Pediatric dentists concentrate exclusively on the care of teeth in babies, kids and teens.

As a parent, you know that kids are not just miniature adults. They have thoughts and feelings that aren’t always predictable, and it can take a special kind of know-how to engage with them. Not every licensed dentist has the patience to work with kids, and many kids certainly don’t have the patience to work with the average dentist.

Pediatric dentists intentionally put in the work to become experts in children’s needs. A pediatric dentist is equal parts educator and practitioner, so they have extra training beyond dental school to solidify their expertise in the emotional and developmental needs of children.

What do Pediatric Dentists do?

Pediatric dentists perform all the routine checkups and treatments children need to maintain good oral health. These are some of the most common treatments these specialists perform:

  • Routine Checkups – There’s no question that dental health is a major factor in the overall well-being of your child. Routine checkups generally involve a professional cleaning that removes the unhealthy buildup of tartar and plaque on the teeth, but the examination by the pediatric dentist is often the most important part of the checkup appointment. The exam ensures your child’s teeth and gums are developing normally, and provides the dentist an opportunity to treat any red flags as they appear.
  • X-Rays – Kids and teens should have dental x-rays once a year to detect any problems that may be lurking below the surface of the teeth and gums. X-rays show your dentist issues like decay in between the teeth and cavities that can’t be seen with the naked eye. As a child’s permanent teeth start coming in, x-rays can identify problems in alignment well before the teeth emerge, as well as catch impacted teeth before they become a problem. If your pediatric dentist spots any issues in development, your child may need more than one x-ray per year.
  • Fillings – Cavities and tooth decay are the most common dental issue in children. Around 20 percent of kids aged 5 to 11 have one or more untreated decayed teeth, and they can cause pain as well as infections. Filling those cavities can restore the teeth to normal function, but often fillings aren’t fun even for adults. A pediatric dentist has the skill to place fillings in smaller mouths and make it seem more fun than you thought possible. Procedures like this are where the benefits of pediatric dental training become even more obvious.
  • Sealants – Prevention is always the best medicine, especially when growing teeth are involved. Sealants are a great preventive measure and are also a quick and easy way to keep cavities from forming in the first place. A sealant is a thin coating applied to the chewing surface of the teeth. It’s painted on and hardens almost on contact, so kids can go right back to chewing with minimal downtime. Sealants prevent up to 80 percent of cavities in molars. The process is usually very quick, and requires no numbing or drilling.
  • Fluoride Treatments – Fluoride varnish is another great preventative measure pediatric dentists provide. Another quick and painless procedure, fluoride varnish is applied to the top and sides of every tooth using a small brush.
  • Braces – Many pediatric dental practices offer assessment for orthodontic services as well. While pediatric dentistry and orthodontics are two separate dental specialties, pediatric dentists have lots of training in orthodontics and are often the first ones to diagnose any orthodontic issues. And because they have more experience with developing mouths, they can better predict the course of your child’s progress or spot new issues more quickly.

Beyond Basic Care

While a pediatric dentist can do everything a regular dentist does, they also provide a variety of services you won’t find anywhere else. Pediatric dentists are focused on preventive health and maintenance, and they work hard to help you and your child develop good habits for the future. A good pediatric dentist offers these services:

  • Nutrition and Diet Guidance – Kids can only develop strong and healthy teeth if they’re getting the right nutrition. Sugar is a notorious culprit in tooth decay, yet it’s often the thing kids crave most. Even otherwise-healthy foods like milk and fruit contain a considerable amount of sugar, so learning to balance your child’s diet is essential. Your pediatric dentist can get you started by telling you which foods to avoid and which to incorporate more.
  • Advice and Tips for Parents – You likely have a lot of questions about your child’s dental health, and a regular or family dentist may not be able to answer them thoroughly. For example, one common concern parents have is regarding thumb-sucking. It’s perfectly normal in infants but can cause problems if it persists with older children. A pediatric dentist is extensively familiar with this type of concern and can offer detailed suggestions if it becomes a problem.

Kids aren’t usually interested in the finer points of dental maintenance, but you still want them to develop oral health habits they’ll keep for life. A regular or family dentist may have some pamphlets to hand out, but a pediatric dentist likely has multiple strategies up their sleeve that they’re happy to share with you like tips for flossing your baby’s teeth.

There are so many more details to think of when it comes to caring for kids teeth and gums. Even the simple act of brushing their teeth comes with more thought than you would imagine. Nearly 40 percent of kids of all ages are using too much toothpaste! Your pediatric dentist can help you deliver the best at-home dental care to your child.

It is recommended that children should see a dentist within six months of their first tooth erupting or by their first birthday, whichever comes first. This early visit establishes your relationship with the dentist, starts a good practice of preventative screenings and helps acclimate the child so future visits aren’t frightening. The earlier a child sees a dentist, the better their future oral health will be.

The age limit for pediatric dentists is higher than you might think. While the skills and expertise of pediatric dentists are targeted toward babies and children, older teens benefit hugely from continuity of care. Most pediatric dentists stop seeing a child once they reach the age of 18, to ensure that their teeth are fully developed before they find a general dentist. A pediatric dentist is there for your child’s dental needs from birth to college.

Nope! There is no referral necessary to see a Pediatric Dentist. You can simply call us and schedule an appointment to become a new patient.