What Is Pediatric Dentistry?

Pediatric dentistry is responsible for the oral care of children. Discover the main functions of this specialty in today's article.
What Is Pediatric Dentistry?
Vanesa Evangelina Buffa

Written and verified by la odontóloga Vanesa Evangelina Buffa.

Last update: 12 September, 2023

Oral health should begin to be taken care of from childhood in order to avoid complications in the future. Pediatric dentistry is the branch of dentistry that focuses on providing specialized oral care to children and adolescents.

Pediatric dentists play a crucial role in caring for children’s smiles. Education, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of specific dental conditions in children are the main focuses of this specialty. Let’s take a detailed look at what it consists of.

What is pediatric dentistry?

As we anticipated, pediatric dentistry is a branch of dentistry that focuses on the oral care of children, from birth to adolescence. This specialty not only focuses on the care of the teeth and gums of little ones. It’s also concerned with oral development, oral health in general, and the comprehensive well-being of the youngest patients.

Dental care during childhood is essential. The care of baby teeth plays a crucial role in the proper development and growth of the jaws and permanent teeth.

Furthermore, oral conditions are closely related to the general health, well-being, and social development of children. According to research conducted on Hong Kong preschool children, children with childhood cavities have a lower quality of life.

The characteristics of children’s dental care

The primary goal of pediatric dentistry is to create a positive and safe experience for children. In addition, it promotes good oral hygiene and lays the foundation for optimal dental health throughout life.

This branch of dentistry, apart from dedicating itself to prevention and oral health care, considers the psychological aspect of the child. The need to create an caring bond with patients is key to achieving a better reception of the treatments. For this, special techniques and safe materials are used and a cozy atmosphere is generated that’s capable of reducing anxiety and fear during visits to the dentist.

Pediatric dentistry practices are carried out in environments specially designed for children. The waiting rooms and offices are colorful and friendly, equipped with toys and distractions to keep infants comfortable and relaxed.

In addition, pediatric dentists are trained in communication techniques that allow them to establish a relationship of trust and affection with children. The literature indicates that these strategies are effective in making children feel less anxious in the office, improving their behavior, and increasing the regularity of scheduled dental visits.

This professional also considers the importance of parental support in caring for children. Therefore, adult education is also part of the care.

The pediatric dentistry approach

The main axis of pediatric dentistry is prevention. Its objective is for the child to develop healthy habits that favor their oral health from an early age.

With motivation and accompaniment, pediatric dentistry seeks for children to adopt the following attitudes for their lives:

  • Commit to the care and hygiene of the mouth.
  • Prefer a balanced and healthy diet.
  • Have a positive attitude towards dental visits.

Ideally, the pediatric dentist’s task begins before the child is born, with guidance for the mother throughout her pregnancy. The professional then cares for the baby from birth and monitors the baby throughout infancy, childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. In this process, the family has an active role, therefore, child dental care includes children and their caregivers.

The first visit with the pediatric dentist should be made before the child’s first birthday and then they should continue with regular visits every 6 months. This regimen makes it possible to monitor the growth and development of the jaws and to control tooth eruption. In the event that any condition appears in the mouth, an early diagnosis and treatment can be determined.

Avoiding dental problems during childhood allows children’s mouths to develop properly and perform their functions normally. Little ones will be able to eat, talk, interact, and smile without any problems. In addition, by maintaining health, more complicated, uncomfortable and expensive treatments are avoided.

The functions of pediatric dentistry

Prevention, oral health care, emotional connection, and bonding with the patient are key aspects in pediatric oral care. In any case, pediatric dentistry includes several functions:

1. Promoting oral health and preventing the most frequent oral diseases

Prevention is one of the most outstanding aspects of pediatric dentistry. Education for parents and children includes advice on good oral hygiene, prevention of cavities, proper nutrition, and avoiding bad habits such as thumb sucking or using a pacifier for too long.

A review article in the International Journal of Clinical Preventive Dentistry indicates that children’s dental visits should include individualized preventive strategies and anticipatory guidance. The pediatric dentist also applies some specific dental practices that help prevent the most common oral diseases in children’s mouths:

  • Dental cleanings
  • Fluoride therapy
  • Pit and fissure sealants
  • Topical antimicrobials

2. Managing anxiety and fear of the dentist

For some little ones, visits to the dentist can cause fear or anxiety. Pediatric dentistry has several strategies so that the moment of dental care is a pleasant and enjoyable situation.

Games, songs, demonstrations, role changes, and other tactics are part of the resources used by the children’s dentist to familiarize children with the field of dentistry. Frequent and short visits, as well as affectionate treatment, are key in order for children to gain confidence and feel safe when visiting the dental office.

3. Controlling tooth eruption and growth and the development of the mouth

Throughout childhood and adolescence, the pediatric dentist controls the development of orofacial structures. An article in the International Journal of Oral Science highlights that the management of children’s oral health includes the necessary measures to establish a healthy dentition and alleviate or avoid malocclusion. This approach extends from the eruption of the first deciduous tooth to the achievement of a young permanent dentition.

The professional can detect any alteration in the growth of the jaws or in the eruption of the teeth. Likewise, they’ll be attentive to the presence of harmful habits that may jeopardize the proper growth of the mouth or the positioning of the teeth. If they consider it appropriate, they can recommend a child orthodontic treatment to prevent the damage from advancing and complicating.

4. Treating oral diseases

When children have a problem in their mouth, their pediatric dentist is in charge of diagnosing and treating the condition. For this, they have various techniques and procedures capable of restoring health comfortably and safely.

The most common dental treatments in childhood include the following procedures:

  • Fillings
  • Crowns
  • Dental cleanings
  • Children’s root canals
  • Extractions and space maintainers
  • Medicines to control pain, infections, and alterations in the soft tissues of the mouth

Depending on the needs of the child, local anesthesia, sedation, or general anesthesia can be used.

5. Manage dental trauma

Blows in the mouth are very common situations during childhood and adolescence. The pediatric dentist is the most suitable professional to treat dental trauma in children.

There are various procedures to restore health to injured oral structures. The measures to be taken will depend on the degree of tissue involvement, whether it is temporary or permanent teeth or if there is damage to the alveolar bone.

6. Caring for patients with disabilities

Training in pediatric dentistry provides the professional with useful resources to care for patients with various disabilities, both children and adults. Likewise, pediatric dentists are part of the care teams for patients with cleft palate, cleft lip, and other craniofacial anomalies.

Pediatric dentistry improves dental experiences in childhood

Pediatric dentistry focuses on providing quality dental care to children. Empathy, patience, and the ability to establish a connection with the little ones are fundamental characteristics of this dental specialty. By providing positive and enjoyable dental experiences, good oral health is promoted in children from an early age.

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