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What Is a Pediatric Dentist?
A pediatric dentist is to a general dentist what a pediatrician is to a general practitioner. Each practitioner in a pediatric field receives additional training to be able to provide specific, age-based services to the youngest patients. Not all children need to see a pediatric dentist, but those who do stand to benefit significantly from the specialized treatment and care that they receive.
What makes a pediatric dentist?
All dentists receive some training in pediatric dentistry over the course of study to earn a degree in the field. However, pediatric dentists receive training that goes far beyond the basic grounding that most dentists receive, going through residency training for two years to learn about treating children of all ages, from infancy to adolescence, often with a particular emphasis on treating children with special needs.
In addition to the services that general dentists provide, pediatric dentists can also perform additional duties, such as the following.
If a child has not yet developed tooth decay, it may be possible to prevent it with fluoride treatments, dental sealants and cleanings. It may be beneficial for a pediatric dentist rather than a general dentist to perform cleanings on a child because of the difficulty involved in cleaning children's teeth.
Young children may perform habits that could be detrimental to future dental health, such as thumb-sucking or pacifier use. Pediatric dentists can advise parents on positive and effective ways to modify these habits.
Oral health education
Both parents and children need to be educated on the best ways to care for new teeth and maintain proper oral health. An example is education on proper brushing and flossing techniques with the goal of establishing lifelong healthy habits.
Which children should see a pediatric dentist?
Pediatric dentists can and do see children of all ages. Even well into adolescence, a child may continue to see a pediatric dentist.
It is not required that all children see pediatric dentists. Many children receive successful treatment from general dentists with no ill effects. However, not all general dentists are experienced at or comfortable with treating young children. This may be especially true of infants. Baby teeth usually start coming in at around 6 months of age, at which time it is appropriate for the child to start seeing a dentist. However, this may pose a challenge to one who does not see babies often.
Another group of children who may particularly benefit from pediatric dentistry are those with special needs, who do not always understand what is happening and may panic as the examination begins. Pediatric dentists are specifically trained in methods of putting such children at ease to treat them successfully.
Pediatric dentists may not be readily available in all areas, meaning that for some patients, it may not be practical or worthwhile to see one specifically. For others, it may be worth the additional effort. Much depends on the comfort level, needs and temperament of the child. If you are looking for a pediatric dentist in the area, the child's doctor may be able to help.
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