Your little tyke just sprouted his first tooth! You document the exciting occasion with lots of photos and social media posts, but now what? You already sifted through dozens of recommendations to find the perfect paediatrician – now it’s time to hunt for a pediatric dentist!

Does my child really need a pediatric dentist?

It is tempting to take your little one to the general or family dentist you have known and trusted for years, and why not? Teeth are teeth, after all,

Hold on – not so fast.

The successful treatment of young patients is a field that takes not only specialized education and training, but also a certain skill set in terms of “bedside manners” that ensures your child will be comfortable and at ease in the dentist’s chair. Barring some sort of extraneous circumstances, you probably wouldn’t take your baby to the family doctor, either, but to a qualified pediatrician instead.

Unlike your family or general dentist, a pediatric dentist receives an additional 2-3 years of specialized training after dental school and treats exclusively infants and children. When it comes to personality, you may find that your pediatric dentist is adept at connecting with little ones, and the dentist may even make the parent’s life easier by offering toys and cartoons in the waiting room.

What ages does a pediatric dentist serve?

From the day your son or daughter’s first tooth erupts, until his or her 18th birthday, your pediatric dentist will ensure your child’s proper oral health and development.

Instilling good dental hygiene early in life is extremely important to achieve strong, healthy teeth as your child grows into adulthood, and most pediatric dentists recommend bringing in your child for his first visit when the first baby teeth start coming in (around the age of 6 months).

Teenagers may balk at seeing a “baby” dentist, but the care of a specialized pediatric dentist is still recommended until the child’s jaw stops growing in the mid-to-late teens.

Children, like adults, should receive regular dental check-ups every 6 months.

What does a pediatric dentist do?

As your child matures, his or her pediatric dentist will keep a close eye on the proper development of the jaw and teeth. Depending on your child’s age, there may be specific issues the dentist may be on the look-out for.

Infancy – Age 3

  • Educate parents on cleaning baby teeth as well as the use of toothpaste and flouride
  • Ensure new teeth erupt in a timely manner and without complications
  • Talk about tooth decay prevention
  • Monitor jaw growth and speech development
  • Address thumbsucking and/or pacifier use, if applicable
  • Lay the groundwork for good oral hygiene and fearless dentist visits in adulthood

Ages 3 – 16

  • Check for cavities
  • Address dietary concerns
  • Take dental x-rays
  • Administer dental sealants, if needed
  • Monitor eruption of adult teeth
  • Address the need for braces in teens, if applicable
  • Educate parents on a need for mouthguards in sports

Age 16+

  • Watch for complications in wisdom teeth eruption
  • Recommend wisdom tooth extraction, if needed
  • Continue checking for cavities
  • Recommend and/or refer to a general dentist

Pediatric dentists play an important role in your child’s oral health care and overall well-being as he grows. Here’s to a lifetime of strong, healthy teeth!

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