Dental care is one of the most important yet often overlooked aspects of general health. Its absence or inadequacy in children can lead to a number of problems, including discomfort, tooth decay, and speech impediments. As per research, 60% to 90% of children worldwide suffer from dental caries, a bacterial disease caused by a build-up of plaque in the mouth.
Not all children have an easy time taking their dental care routine seriously. With so many interesting activities to pursue, and a demanding social and academic calendar, oral hygiene often takes the back seat. However, this dental neglect can be alleviated by encouraging proper brushing habits, healthy meal intake, and regular dental visits.
Speaking of dental appointments, a visit to the pediatric dentist can be intimidating for children. It’s common for them to get nervous about the prospect of an unfamiliar person peering into their mouths, exploring their teeth, and possibly poking them with sharp implements. Thus, it’s important to explore this profession to ensure that the next visit is smooth sailing.
What Training And Qualifications Does a Kids Dentist Possess?
Upon completing undergraduate studies, usually a four-year program, a pediatric dentist is awarded a dental degree. This degree is proof that the professional has received adequate training to perform a variety of dental procedures such as dental cleaning, fillings, crowns, and extractions. In addition to this formal training, the dentist completes an additional two-year residency in pediatric dentistry to specialize in the said field.
Pediatric dentistry differs from adult dentistry, even though the latter caters to patients of all ages. Given the unique needs of pediatric patients, a general practitioner would usually refer them to a pediatric dentist. Children have smaller teeth and thinner enamel, which makes them more susceptible to cavities and other dental problems. Furthermore, a child’s teeth, palate, jaws, and face grow and develop rapidly.
As a result, a child’s dental needs change according to growth and differ from those of an adult, which is why a pediatric dentist’s role can’t be overstated. Parents are advised to take their children to a dentist as soon as their first tooth comes through or when they are a year old.
Roles of a Pediatric Dentist
Pediatric dentists are responsible for diagnosing and treating early dental problems in children, as well as providing preventive care. They also help educate parents on how to care for their children’s teeth and gums, such as what toothpaste and brushing techniques to use. Some of the tasks performed by pediatric dentists include:
- Examining teeth and gums for signs of decay or infection
- Administering fluoride treatments
- Prescribing dental sealants
- Performing corrective dental procedures like fillings and extractions
- Educating parents on how to care for their children’s teeth and gums
- Offering guidance on a proper, healthy diet
What Does a Typical Visit to the Kids Dentist Involve?
A typical visit to a pediatric dentist can be broken down into three phases: consultation, examination, and treatment. During the first visit, the dentist will ask a parent to fill out the required paperwork and explain established policies regarding children. The specialist will also ask the parent to explain what problems the child has experienced so far. This provides a clear picture of the child’s oral health needs.
The consultation phase is also an opportunity for the parents to ask any questions they may have regarding dental procedures. Afterward, the dentist will examine the child’s teeth and gums to assess the current state of the child’s oral health. Since the child’s growth and development can be easily gauged by the dentist through simple exams, problems that were invisible to the untrained eye can be addressed before they escalate.
Based on the examination results, the dentist will perform diagnostic procedures, such as x-rays, and develop a personalized treatment plan for the child. Recommended treatments may include braces, fillings, extractions, and sealants. However, the entire plan won’t be executed at once. It’s normal for children to be apprehensive about new faces and procedures, which is why it’s a good idea to break it up into more manageable tasks.
A good pediatric dentist will explain the treatment plan in a manner that’s appropriate to the child’s age.
What to Look Out for in a Pediatric Dentist
Dentistry is a highly regulated field, with licensing laws in place to protect patients and prevent dentists from performing unnecessary procedures. While not all dentists are alike, there are certain qualities that every specialist should possess. When selecting a dentist, consider the following:
Qualifications and Experience
A parent’s search for the ideal pediatric dentist is guided by a few key factors. The most important consideration is whether the dentist is licensed in the state where the child lives. Ensure that the dentist is a member of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AADP) or an equivalent professional dental association, and has a DMD or DDS degree from an accredited dental school. Additionally, ensure that the pediatric dentist is Board-Certified by the American Board of Pediatric Dentists.
Approach to Treatment
A child-friendly approach is a must, which is why choosing a pediatric dentist who knows how to comfort and entertain their young patients is essential. The dentist should make a conscious effort to break down any dental procedure into smaller tasks, and explain the steps involved in a simple manner so as not to scare the little ones.
Facilities and Equipment
A pediatric dental facility designed with children in mind is a top priority. Ideally, there should be a dedicated space for dental treatments, a separate waiting area, and a play station for children. In addition, the clinic should be well equipped with cutting-edge instruments and supplies as well.
The cost of dental services can vary significantly, depending on the region. In some cases, government-subsidized care is available, while in other cases, patients may be required to pay out-of-pocket. As recommended, parents should inquire about the dental fees before treatment.
Finding a pediatric dentist for children is as important as ensuring their proper nutrition and physical well-being. With the right professional on hand, parents can rest assured that their children will receive the proper care and attention needed to guarantee a lifetime of happy smiles.