Pediatric dentists face a challenging and important job: caring for the oral health of children. Treating younger patients requires extra skill and special attention, so pediatric dentists must complete two to three years of additional specialty training focused solely on the needs of infants to adolescents.
The right pediatric dentist will help patients establish good habits early, from proper brushing and flossing to achieving a positive attitude about twice-yearly check-ups. This means working with the entire family involved in maintaining a child’s daily oral health.
Pediatric dentists provide the following specialty services:
- Preventative care. In addition to child and parent education, prevention includes fluoride treatments and dental sealants—clear plastic coatings that fill in the grooved and pitted surfaces of a child’s teeth, helping to protect hard-to-clean areas for many years.
- Additional treatment options. Many pediatric dentists use nitrous oxide, one of the safest forms of sedation, to help calm, fidgety or nervous patients. Depending on the facility, pediatric dentists may also offer oral conscious sedation, following guidelines set by the American Society of Anesthesiologists and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
- Dental x-rays for children. With today’s high-speed film, the risk of exposure to radiation is extremely minimal. Still, pediatric dentists are careful to use additional safeguards, such as protective gear, faster digital film, and appropriate, low-dose techniques for their young patients.
- Special needs care. Pediatric dentists are trained to treat patients with special healthcare needs, offering extra attention and consideration for safe and compassionate care. They are also more likely than general dentists to have affiliations with a network of specialists, including pediatricians and other child specialists.
- Custom mouth guards. According to the American Dental Association, the use of protective mouth guards prevents over 200,000 oral injuries per year. Pediatric dentists are trained to create and repair custom mouth guards made from impressions of kids’ teeth.