Pediatric dentistry is a discipline that treats the dental health of children. These specialists treat children from infancy through adolescence. In some instances, a pediatric dentist will care for the dental hygiene of patients with special needs, such as those who suffer from cerebral palsy or autism. This particular specialty requires additional training.
Pediatric dentists are required to attend a post-doctoral program lasting two to three years after qualifying as a dentist. This additional training prepares professionals for the unique challenges presented in pediatric dentistry. A pediatric dentist learns dental techniques as well as the specifics of childhood growth and development and child psychology. Once the post-doctoral program is complete, the pediatric dentist is eligible for board certification in the United States from the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. When seeking a pediatric dentist, the parent should check for this post-doctoral degree and certification.
A visit to the dentist can be scary to many adults. Imagine being a child and seeing a dentist for the very first time. The additional training helps the pediatric professional choose kid-friendly decorations and teaches them on how to best assist a child throughout a dental visit. Part of the pediatric dental specialty is to educate children on how to care for their own dental health. The extra education trains the pediatric dentist in how to best attend to the specific needs of children and how to advise parents in their child’s dental health.
Dental hygiene for a child begins at birth. The American Board of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents should gently wipe their infant’s gums with a soft cloth or gauze after every feeding. Infant toothbrushes are recommended once the baby begins to grow teeth. Follow a pediatric dentist’s advice on whether to introduce toothpaste at this early age. A first dental visit can be scheduled when the child is one year of age, but no later than two years old.
Prepare a child for their first visit by visiting the local library or bookstore and borrow or buy a book about visiting the dentist. The American Board of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a child initially first visit a pediatric dentist before a problem develops. In this way, the child can get used to the person who will treat them without fear or pain. Some parents do not believe that a child needs to visit a pediatric dentist until permanent teeth are developed. This is not true; a professional can advise a parent on the best practices for dental hygiene. Also, when a child starts visiting a pediatric dentist very young, the child will accept the dental routine as normal and may even welcome visits to the dentist.
Parents can ask for referrals from friends or check the local or state board of dentistry. Certainly, when seeking a pediatric dentist, choose a professional who is understanding and kid-friendly. For example, a professional who is gruff with children or who insists that a parent hold a frightened child down is best avoided. Parents can expect a pediatric dentist to understand and work through a child’s natural fear of the very different experience of visiting a dentist.
For more information on pediatric dentistry, or to schedule an appointment for your child, contact Dr. Postol at his St. Louis area dental office today.