PEDIATRIC DENTIST

The Pediatric Dentist

Pediatric dentistry is the specialty of dentistry that focuses on the oral health of young people. After completing a four-year dental school curriculum, two to three additional years of rigorous training are required to become a pediatric dentist. This specialized program of study and hands-on experience prepares pediatric dentists to meet the needs of infants, children and adolescents, including persons with special health care needs.

We are concerned about your child’s total health care. Good oral health is an important part of total health. Establishing us as your child’s Dental Home provides us the opportunity to implement preventive dental health habits that keep a child free from dental/oral disease. We focus on prevention, early detection and treatment of dental diseases, and keep current on the latest advances in dentistry for children.

Pleasant visits to the dental office promote the establishment of trust and confidence in your child that will last a lifetime. Our goal, along with our staff, is to help all children feel good about visiting the dentist and teach them how to care for their teeth. From our special office designs to our communication style, our main concern is what is best for your child.

Four things are necessary for cavities to form: 1) a tooth; 2) bacteria; 3) sugars or other carbohydrates; and 4) time. We can share with you how to make teeth strong, keep bacteria from organizing into harmful colonies, develop healthy eating habits, and understand the role that time plays. Remember dental decay is an infection of the tooth. Visiting us early can help avoid unnecessary cavities and dental treatment.

The pediatric dental community is continually doing research to develop new techniques for preventing dental decay and other forms of oral disease. Studies show that children with poor oral health have decreased school performance, poor social relationships and less success later in life. Children experiencing pain from decayed teeth are distracted and unable to concentrate on schoolwork.

Importance Of Primary Teeth (Baby Teeth)

It is very important that primary teeth are kept in place until they are lost naturally. These teeth serve a number of critical functions. Primary teeth:

• Maintain good nutrition by permitting your child to chew properly.

• Are involved in speech development.

• Help the permanent teeth by saving space for them. A healthy smile can help children feel good about the way they look to others.

Infants And Children

Getting an early start in regular dental care is an important step on the road to teaching your child healthy lifetime habits. We want to share with you the latest available methods for keeping your child healthy and safe.

The first dental visit should occur shortly after the first tooth erupts and no later than the child’s first birthday. Beginning tooth and mouth examinations early may lead to detection of early stages of tooth decay that can be easily treated. At the first visit we will present:

• A program of preventive home care including brushing, flossing, diet and the importance of fluorides.

• A caries risk assessment.

• Information about Early Childhood Caries, which may be due to inappropriate nursing habits or inappropriate use of sippy cups.

• The latest facts about finger, thumb and pacifier habits.

• What you need to know about preventing injuries to the mouth and teeth.

• Information on growth and development.

Adolescents

Adolescents have special needs. Appearance and self-image are very important to them. Decayed or poorly positioned teeth or jaws might make them more self-conscious. Teens also eat frequently, and unhealthy snack foods tend to become a major part of their regular diet. We provide a professional, sensitive and caring approach to restoring and guiding teeth, and teaching preventive dental health care through the teen’s high school years. When necessary, we will provide information on sealants, oral piercing, wisdom teeth, missing teeth and tobacco use.

Young People With Special Needs

An integral part of our education is concerned with the medical and dental health of the special patient. People with significant medical, physical, or mental disabilities often present challenges to dentists. Our training allows us to address their special needs and provide the best care possible.

Team Approach To Total Health

Good oral health is an important part of total health. When helping children, we often work with pediatricians, other physicians and dental specialists. All young people are served best through this team approach. We, the pediatric dentists, are an important part of your child’s health team.

The American Academy Of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD)

HABITS

Thumb, Finger, and Pacifier Habits

Why Do Children Suck On Fingers, Pacifiers Or Other Objects?

This type of sucking is completely normal for babies and young children. It provides security. For young babies, it is a way to make contact with and learn about the world. In fact, babies begin to suck on their fingers or thumbs even before they are born.

Are These Habits Bad For The Teeth And Jaws?

Most children stop sucking on thumbs, pacifiers or other objects on their own between 2 and 4 years of age. However, some children continue these habits over long periods of time. In these children, the upper front teeth may tip toward the lip or not come in properly. Frequent or intense habits over a prolonged period of time can affect the way the child’s teeth bite together, as well as the growth of the jaws and bones that support the teeth.

When Should I Worry About A Sucking Habit?

Your pediatric dentist will carefully watch the way your child’s teeth erupt and jaws develop, keeping the sucking habit in mind at all times. Because persistent habits may cause long term problems, intervention may be recommended for children beyond 3 years of age.

What Can I Do To Stop My Child’s Habit?

Most children stop sucking habits on their own, but some children need the help of their parents and their pediatric dentist. When your child is old enough to understand the possible results of a sucking habit, your pediatric dentist can encourage your child to stop, as well as talk about what happens to the teeth and jaws if your child does not stop. This advice, coupled with support from parents, helps most children quit. If this approach does not work, your pediatric dentist may recommend ways to change the behavior, including a mouth appliance that interferes with sucking habits.

Are Pacifiers A Safer Habit For The Teeth Than Thumbs Or Fingers?

Thumb, finger and pacifier sucking affect the teeth and jaws in essentially the same way. However, a pacifier habit often is easier to break.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD)

SEALANTS

Sealants

 

What Are Sealants?Sealants protect the grooved and pitted surfaces of the teeth, especially the chewing surfaces of back teeth where most cavities in children are found. Made of clear or shaded plastic, sealants are applied to the teeth to help keep them cavity-free.

How Do Sealants Work?

Even if your child brushes and flosses carefully, it is difficult—sometimes impossible—to clean the tiny grooves and pits on certain teeth. Food and bacteria build up in these crevices, placing your child in danger of tooth decay. Sealants “seal out” food and plaque, thus reducing the risk of decay.

How Long Do Sealants Last?

Research shows that sealants can last for many years if properly cared for. Therefore, your child will be protected throughout the most cavity-prone years. If your child has good oral hygiene and avoids biting hard objects, sealants will last longer. Your pediatric dentist will check the sealants during routine dental visits and recommend re-application or repair when necessary.

What Is The Treatment Like?

The application of a sealant is quick and comfortable. It takes only one visit. The tooth is first cleaned. It is then conditioned and dried. The sealant is then flowed onto the grooves of the tooth and allowed to harden or hardened with a special light. Your child will be able to eat right after the appointment.

How Much Does It Cost?

The treatment is very affordable, especially in view of the valuable decay protection it offers your child. Most dental insurance companies cover sealants. Some companies, however, have age and specific tooth limitations. Check with your benefits provider about your child’s coverage and talk to your pediatric dentist about the exact cost of sealants for your child.

Which Teeth Should Be Sealed?

The natural flow of saliva usually keeps the smooth surfaces of teeth clean but does not wash out the grooves and fissures. So the teeth most at risk of decay— and therefore, most in need of sealants— are the six-year and twelve-year molars. Many times the permanent premolars and primary molars will also benefit from sealant coverage. Any tooth, however, with grooves or pits may benefit from the protection of sealants. Talk to your pediatric dentist, as each child’s situation is unique.

If My Child Has Sealants, Are Brushing And Flossing Still Important?

Absolutely! Sealants are only one step in the plan to keep your child cavity-free for a lifetime. Brushing, flossing, balanced nutrition, limited snacking, and regular dental visits are still essential to a bright, healthy smile.

SPACE MAINTAINERS

Space Maintenance

 

What Are Space Maintainers?Space maintainers are appliances made of metal or plastic that are custom fit to your child’s mouth. They are small and unobtrusive in appearance. Most children easily adjust to them after the first few days.

Why Do Children Lose Their Baby Teeth?

A baby tooth usually stays in place until a permanent tooth underneath pushes it out and takes its place. Unfortunately, some children lose a baby tooth too soon. A tooth might be knocked out accidentally or removed because of dental disease. When a tooth is lost too early, your pediatric dentist may recommend a space maintainer to prevent future space loss and dental problems.

Why All The Fuss? Baby Teeth Fall Out Eventually On Their Own!

Baby teeth are important to your child’s present and future dental health. They encourage normal development of the jaw bones and muscles. They save space for the permanent teeth and guide them into position. Remember: Some baby teeth are not replaced until a child is 12 or 14 years old.

How Does A Lost Baby Tooth Cause Problems For Permanent Teeth?

If a baby tooth is lost too soon, the teeth beside it may tilt or drift into the empty space. Teeth in the other jaw may move up or down to fill the gap. When adjacent teeth shift into the empty space, they create a lack of space in the jaw for the permanent teeth. Therefore, permanent teeth are crowded and come in crooked. If left untreated, the condition may require extensive orthodontic treatment.

How Does A Space Maintainer Help?

Space maintainers hold open the empty space left by a lost tooth. They steady the remaining teeth, preventing movement until the permanent tooth takes its natural position in the jaw. It is more affordable – and easier on your child – to keep teeth in normal positions with a space maintainer than to move them back in place with orthodontic treatment.

What Special Care Do Space Maintainers Need?

Pediatric dentists have four rules for space maintainer care. First, avoid sticky sweets or chewing gum. Second, do not tug or push on the space maintainer with your fingers or tongue. Third, keep it clean with conscientious brushing and flossing. Fourth, continue regular dental visits.

REGULAR DENTAL VISITS

Regular Dental Visits

How Often Should A Child See The Dentist?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a dental check-up at least twice a year for most children. Some children need more frequent dental visits because of increased risk of tooth decay, unusual growth patterns or poor oral hygiene. Your pediatric dentist will let you know the best appointment schedule for your child.

Why Visit The Dentist Twice Per Year When My Child Has Never Had A Cavity?

Regular dental visits help your child stay cavity-free. Teeth cleanings remove debris that build up on the teeth, irritate the gums and cause decay. Fluoride treatments renew the fluoride content in the enamel, strengthening teeth and preventing cavities. Hygiene instructions improve your child’s brushing and flossing, leading to cleaner teeth and healthier gums.

Tooth decay is not the only reason for a dental visit. Your pediatric dentist provides an ongoing assessment of changes in your child’s oral health. For example, your child may need additional fluoride, dietary changes or sealants for ideal dental health. The pediatric dentist may identify orthodontic problems and suggest treatment to guide the teeth as they emerge in the mouth.

What Happens In A Dental Check-Up?

The pediatric dentist will review your child’s medical and dental history. He or she will gently examine your child’s teeth, oral tissues and jaws. The teeth will be cleaned and polished, followed by the application of a fluoride solution.

Your pediatric dentist will not just talk to you about dental health, he or she will talk to your child with easily understandable words, pictures and ideas. Your child will be motivated to take responsibility for a healthy smile.

Will X-Rays Be Taken At Every Appointment?

No. Pediatric dentists, acting in accordance with the guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, recommend X-rays only when necessary to protect your child’s dental health. For example, X-rays may be needed to diagnose tooth decay or abnormalities.

Or, they may be required for orthodontic treatment. Your pediatric dentist will discuss the need for X-rays with you before any are taken.

How Can I Help My Child Enjoy Good Dental Health?

The following steps will help your child be part of the cavity-free generation:

1. Beware of frequent snacking

2. Brush effectively twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste

3. Floss once a day

4. Have sealants applied when appropriate

5. Seek regular dental check-ups

6. Assure proper fluoride through drinking water, fluoride products or fluoride supplements.

The American Academy Of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD)

NITROUS OXIDE

Nitrous Oxide

What Is Nitrous Oxide/Oxygen?

Most children are calm, comfortable and confident in a pediatric dental office. The office is designed for young people, and pediatric dentists have additional training in caring for infants, children and adolescents. Staff members choose to work in a pediatric dental office because they like children and want to cater to their special needs. These elements combine to make your child feel relaxed and special.

Sometimes, however, a child may feel anxious before or during treatment. Your child may need more support than a gentle, caring manner to feel comfortable. Nitrous oxide/oxygen is a safe, effective sedative agent used to calm a child’s fear of the dental visit and enhance effective communication. Additionally, it works well for children whose gag reflex interferes with dental treatment.

Nitrous oxide/oxygen (N2O-O2) is a blend of two gases—oxygen and nitrous oxide. A fitted mask is placed over the nose and, as the patient breathes normally, uptake occurs through the lungs. At the end of treatment, it is eliminated after a short period of breathing oxygen and has no lingering effects.

How Will My Child Feel When Breathing Nitrous Oxide/Oxygen?

Your child will smell a faint sweet aroma and experience a sense of well-being and relaxation. Since it may produce a feeling of giddiness or euphoria, it is often called “laughing gas.” Children sometimes report dreaming and their arms and legs may feel “tingly.” It raises the pain threshold and may even make the time appear to pass quickly. If your child is worried by the sights, sounds or sensations of dental treatment, he or she may respond more positively with the use of nitrous oxide/oxygen.

How Safe Is Nitrous Oxide/Oxygen?

Very safe. Nitrous oxide/oxygen is perhaps the safest sedative in dentistry. It is well tolerated. It has a rapid onset, is reversible, can be adjusted in various concentrations and is non-allergenic. Your child remains fully conscious—keeps all natural reflexes— when breathing nitrous oxide/oxygen. He/she will be capable of responding to a question or request. Nitrous oxide/oxygen may also be used in combination with other sedative agents.

Are There Any Special Instructions For Nitrous Oxide/Oxygen?

First, give your child little or no food in the two hours preceding the dental visit (occasionally, nausea or vomiting occurs when a child has a full stomach). Second, tell your pediatric dentist about any respiratory condition that makes breathing through the nose difficult for your child, as it may limit the effectiveness of nitrous oxide/oxygen. Third, tell your pediatric dentist if your child is taking any medication on the day of the appointment.

Will Nitrous Oxide/Oxygen Work For All Children?

Pediatric dentists know that all children are not alike. Every service is tailored to your child as an individual. Nitrous oxide/oxygen may not be effective for some children, especially those who have severe anxiety, nasal congestion, or discomfort wearing a nasal mask. Your pediatric dentist will review your child’s medical history, level of anxiety, and dental treatment needs and inform you if nitrous oxide/ oxygen is recommended for your child. Pediatric dentists have comprehensive specialty training and can offer other sedation methods that are right for your child.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD)