Also known as pedodontics, pediatric dentistry is the subsection of dentistry involved in treating children from birth through adolescence. Pediatric dentistry differs from adult dentistry because children and adolescents are growing, and as a result their mouths are changing. Yet, this branch of dentistry similarly focuses on understanding the cause and prevention of disease, while balancing the need to form trustful, confident relationships with young patients. Moreover, this form of dentistry is also more focused on teaching healthy habits, adapting procedures for the needs of children, and supervising oral health as children develop.
As a dental specialty, pediatric dentists are usually required to complete two years of post-doctoral training that focuses on the special needs and concerns of child patients. Most developed countries today provide board certification for these practitioners, as well as a specialty permit in order for a dentist to represent her/himself specifically as a pediatric dentist.
One of the most important aspects of this field of dentistry is to teach children the importance of healthy teeth. Subsequently, much effort is put into preventing tooth decay and teaching habits and behaviours that prevent decay and gum disease. Indeed, many scientific studies indicate that poor oral hygiene can be related to poor social relationships, poor school performance, and issues with self esteem and confidence. Not surprisingly then, pediatric dentists are experts in communicating with children regarding eating habits and how they affect your teeth, brushing and flossing, and general oral care.
Pedodontics relies on a wide range of disciplines, techniques, procedures, and skills. While many of the attributes of child dentistry are shared with other branches, pediatric dentistry is modified and adapted to meet the needs of children and sometimes individuals with special health care needs. Behaviour guidance, care for medically and developmentally compromised patients, and supervision of oral growth are all much more important to dentists of children and adolescents. Furthermore, even the procedures for children tend to differ from adults; pharmacology is just one example of the many practices that are significantly different for adults and children.
So while pediatric dentistry shares many of the fundamentals of good dental practice, there are some important distinctions as well. Children are constantly learning and adapting and caring for their oral health requires a more flexible and specialized approach. Some stark facts about children and their dental health only highlight the need for qualified pediatric dentists. Almost 50% of children will have suffered tooth decay before the age of 5, and more than half will have cavities by second grade. Pedodontists can help to promote oral hygiene so that children grow up with brighter, healthier smiles. Remember, proper dental health has significant implications for overall emotional and physical health and children are prime for learning about how to care for their teeth.