A lifetime of good oral health starts as soon as a child cuts his or her first baby teeth. When that time comes — and certainly no later than their first birthday — your child should see a professional who specializes in pediatric dentistry.
Why not just any dentist?
Aren’t they all trained and licensed to practice on patients of all ages? Why shouldn’t you just take your kids to the dentist who has been treating you for years?
While it’s true that all dentists are qualified to treat any patient, pediatric dentists receive several years of additional special training beyond the standard schooling required for general dental practice. There are countless factors involved in addressing children’s oral health that simply do not apply to adults. Baby teeth are mobile and it is important to keep track of them as they erupt, fall out and are eventually replaced by permanent teeth, in order to be able to proactively address any irregularities before they require much more complicated orthodonture. Thrush and similar fungal infections are common in children, as are baby bottle tooth decay, enamel hypoplasia, certain gum issues and other conditions. Your pediatric dental professional is well-trained to deal with all these and much more.
Additionally, it is important that children feel comfortable and safe in the traditionally forbidding environment of a dentist’s office, in order to create a positive lifelong association with dental care. Too many adults avoid seeing their dentist as a result of frightening or uncomfortable childhood encounters; providing uniformly positive experiences in early years helps prevent children from dreading (or altogether avoiding) their check-ups and treatments as they grow older.
What To Expect From A Pediatric Dentist
You can expect that a pediatric dentist will have an easy and disarming rapport with children and parents, too — they are trained to maintain a comforting demeanor, as they understand the apprehension and anxiety many children face when being examined or treated. This warm temperament will extend to all members of the staff, as well, ensuring a pleasant visit from start to finish.
Another difference with a pediatric dentist is the physical office environment, which does its best to draw kids in with bright colors and happy decor. There will be children’s books, fun toys or other amusements in the waiting room, the better to make the dentist’s office a place to look forward to visiting rather than a source of trepidation. The equipment in the examination area, which can seem so threatening to small people, will be reduced in scale compared to that found at an adult dentist’s office, too, so as not to overwhelm young patients.
Your pediatric dental care provider will be sure to not only patiently explain to parents and children what they are doing during an exam, but also provide careful instruction to both in the basics of daily oral hygiene. Depending on the age of your child, this might include tooth brushing, flossing, and proper use of oral rinses.
Additionally, should potentially invasive or painful treatment be necessary, your pediatric dentist is trained and experienced in the use of safe and mild sedation, which helps relax the patient and reduce their anxiety.
A great match between child patient and dentist is vital to establishing healthy lifelong oral self-care habits, and forming a positive early relationship with a professional specially trained to care for children is the surest path toward a lifetime of genuine smiles.