Pediatric dentistry is an area of expertise in the field of dental medicine. Pediatric dentists specialize in the dental health of children, from infants and toddlers through teenagers. Pediatric dentists understand that the mouth structure and dental needs of children are different than those of adult. They have received the same training as a traditional dentist, but have also studied ways to make a visit to the dentist less traumatic for their young patients.
Pediatric dentists attend four years of dental school, the same as regular dentists. After that, they spend two years in residency, working with infants and children. They understand that it is hard for children to sit still long enough for dental work, and that a trip to the dentist is a scary thing. A pediatric dentist will learn techniques to reduce this fear. This may include letting children see all of the equipment before the appointment starts, decorating in a child-friendly way, and using soothing methods to keep an antsy child still.
Infants start getting their first teeth between five and eight months of age. By three years of age, they will have all of their baby teeth. It is recommended that all toddlers have their first dental appointment by the time they are two and a half -- earlier if there are any concerns, like baby bottle tooth decay. After this first appointment, children should see the dentist at least twice a year.
There is more to pediatric dentistry than just cleaning teeth. Pediatric dentists provide advice and counsel for parents whose children have habits like thumb sucking or pacifier use. They treat dental injuries, like chipped teeth. They do fluoride treatments, and offer advice on nutrition. A pediatric dentist also treats cavities, gum disease, and other infections in the mouth. Most importantly, a pediatric dentist teaches children about how to properly care through their teeth -- through brushing, flossing, and proper nutrition -– setting the stage for a life time of great dental hygiene.
A pediatrician can give parents a referral for a pediatric dentist in their area. Parents can also find pediatric dentists through area colleges with dentistry degree programs, phone books, or community websites. Pediatric dentistry is a relatively new field. Pediatric dentists are becoming more popular, and can be found in most larger cities and some smaller towns. Rural areas may need to search around to find a pediatric dentist in their area. There are also many regular dentists who have child-friendly practices. While these dentists may not specialize in pediatric dentistry, they still provide a positive experience for young patients.