A pediatric dentist is specially trained to work with children’s teeth. Children have specific dental needs that are different from that of adults. While a general or family dentist may work with patients of all ages, a pediatric dentist works specifically with children from babies to teenagers.
What does a pediatric dentist do? Here’s an overview of pediatric dentistry and why it is important for children to go to a pediatric dentist in their early years.
Preventive dentistry services refers to routine dental appointments that children should have every 6 months. These appointments typically include:
- Cleaning. A basic teeth cleaning involves removing plaque from the teeth with special instruments. It also includes flossing and polishing the teeth.
- Examination. A thorough oral examination will identify any potential problems such as cavities or gum disease.
- X-Rays. Most Pediatric Dentists follow the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) guidelines for x-rays. The AAPD recommends to take x-rays once the molars in the back begin to touch or have contact. This occurs, on average, around 3-4 years of age. The dentist will check your child’s teeth prior to taking their first set of x-rays. Depending on your child’s risk factors, x-rays are recommended either once every six months for those who are at high risk for cavities or once per year for those who are low risk for cavities. X-Ray images of the mouth and jaw allow us to diagnose if there are any problems that can’t be seen with the naked eye, such as cavities between the teeth or issues below the gum line.
- Fluoride treatment. A fluoride treatment may be applied in the form of a rinse or a varnish that is painted on. A high concentration of fluoride fortifies the tooth enamel to help prevent cavities.
Restorative dentistry refers to procedures that are performed to restore teeth when there is damage of some kind, such as decay. Restorative procedures include:
- Filling. When a cavity forms in a tooth, which is a hole in the enamel caused by bacteria, it needs to be filled. Cavities are common in children and should be filled as soon as they are discovered to restore the tooth. Even cavities in baby teeth should be filled because the tooth is holding the place for the permanent tooth to come in. Your child’s last baby tooth doesn’t fall out until 12 years old! Allowing a cavity to go without treatment may result in severe tooth pain or premature extraction.
- Baby Root Canal (pulpotomy). A cavity that is deep enough to reach the inner pulp of the tooth may require a pulp therapy. The inside portion of the tooth and root is filled with soft tissue containing blood vessels and nerves. This area can become infected by bacteria. Pulp therapy involves cleaning out the inner part of the tooth and restoring the tooth to prevent infection.
- Crown. A tooth that is severely damaged in some way, either from a trauma or decay, can sometimes be restored with a crown. The crown fits over the existing portion of the tooth and provides a protective cover for the tooth.
- Extraction. When a tooth is too badly damaged to be restored, it may have to be extracted. When a baby tooth is extracted before it falls out naturally, a space maintainer may need to be used to hold the place open for the permanent tooth and keep the other teeth from shifting into the gap.
Children are typically less likely to need cosmetic dentistry than adults, but it can sometimes be necessary or helpful, especially in the teenage years. Pediatric cosmetic dentistry procedures include:
- Teeth whitening. Sometimes children and teens want professional teeth whitening treatment to remove stains and discoloration. This is recommended for mature teens. Whitening is not commonly recommended for those under 16 years of age.
- Bonding. Bonding involves the use of composite resin to reshape or cover imperfections or fractures in the teeth.
Pediatric dentists typically screen for orthodontic issues from a child’s first appointment and throughout their development. Some pediatric dentists offer orthodontic services and others may refer you to an orthodontist for an evaluation. Orthodontic services may include teeth straightening treatments like braces and Invisalign as well as interceptive orthodontic appliances, such as palatal expanders.
Marigold Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics
Pediatric dental practices specialize in treating children. When you can find a dental practice that also provides orthodontic services in one location, you have the ultimate convenience. The majority of children and adolescents will need some type of orthodontic treatment in their lifetime. At Marigold Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics, all of your child’s oral care needs can be met under one roof.