Pediatric dentists are dental specialists who are dedicated to meeting the dental needs of children and teens. They complete years of intensive training to provide comprehensive, preventive, and restorative dental care specifically focused on infants, toddlers, kids, and teenagers. After completing 4 years of dental school, a dentist must undergo an additional 2 to 3 years of training to be considered a pediatric specialist. A pediatric dentist offers a wide range of treatment options, including:
- Oral health exams for infants
- Preventive dental care, as well as nutrition and diet recommendations
- Habit counseling for things such as thumb sucking and pacifier use
- Early assessment for straightening teeth and correcting an improper bite
- Cavity repair
- Diagnosis of oral conditions associated with diseases such as diabetes, congenital heart defect, asthma, hay fever, and attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder
- Management of gum diseases and conditions including ulcers, mucoceles, and pediatric periodontal disease
- Care for dental injuries such as fractured, displaced, or knocked-out teeth
As soon as your child’s first tooth erupts you should begin daily brushing. Training toothpaste or a light smear of fluoride toothpaste can be used cleanse the teeth upon eruption. A pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste can be used after your child is old enough not to swallow it. Once your child has adequate motor control they should be able to brush his or her own teeth twice a day with supervision to make sure he or she is doing a thorough job.
Infants and young children may suck on their thumbs, fingers, pacifiers, and other objects in order to feel secure and happy. Most children naturally stop sucking their thumbs by the age of 3, but if the habit persists beyond the eruption of the permanent teeth it can cause developmental and alignment problems.
Pacifiers can affect the teeth essentially the same way as sucking fingers and thumbs. However, use of the pacifier can be controlled and modified more easily than the thumb or finger habit. If you have concerns about thumb sucking or use of a pacifier, be sure to let Dr. Caitlin know at your child’s visit.
Sometimes children are too young to cooperate, have special needs that reduce cooperative ability, or simply feel uneasy about dental treatment. If we feel that some type of sedation or general anesthesia is needed for your child’s treatment, we will consult with you about your child’s personality and individual needs to determine the best way to make him or her feel comfortable. Your child’s safety is important to us, and we always follow the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry sedation guidelines.
Although they will eventually fall out to make room for the permanent teeth, primary (baby) teeth serve a variety of purposes. Primary teeth are important for:
- Proper chewing and eating
- Reserving space for the permanent teeth and guiding them into the correct position
- Permitting normal development of the jaw bones and muscles
- Development of speech
Neglected cavities in the primary teeth can cause sensitivity, pain, and potentially even infection. They can also directly affect the development of your child’s permanent teeth.
We use dental radiographs, or X-rays, in the dental exams of children of all ages, because many problems with the teeth and surrounding tissues cannot be seen by the naked eye. X-rays can reveal:
- Small areas of decay between teeth
- Deep cavities
- Infections in the jaw bones
- Abscesses or cysts
- Developmental abnormalities
The specific kind of X-rays we use in our pediatric dental practice are digital X-rays, which are not only more comfortable and accurate than conventional X-rays, but also faster and better for the environment, too. With no sharp X-ray film and no lengthy chemical processing required, the images are available on our computer screen within seconds. Studies have also found that digital X-rays emit up to 90% less radiation than conventional X-rays!
Healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. Like the rest of the body, the teeth, bones, and soft tissues of the mouth need a well-balanced diet. Children should eat a variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, and dairy. Most snacks that children eat contain various sugars that can lead to cavity formation. The more often a child snacks, the greater the chance for tooth decay. A diet high in sugar and starches may place your child at higher risk for tooth decay. If your child snacks, choose nutritious foods such as vegetables, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat cheese, which are healthier and better for children’s teeth.
The American Orthodontic Society recommends that children have an evaluation by an orthodontist around the age of 6 or 7. Early evaluation can help prevent potential problems. The earlier issues are diagnosed, the more conservatively they can be treated, which can save you money and save your child from more extensive dental treatment in the future. The more severe the growth and alignment problems, the earlier an orthodontist should be consulted.
We understand that sometimes emergencies happen. If your child should require emergency treatment during office hours we will make every effort to treat them in a timely fashion. After hours the doctor can be reached using the emergency number given below.