Paediatric Dentists and How They Provide Quality Children's Dental Treatment

A children's dentist is trained to help nervous children that need dental treatment

Who are paediatric dentists?

Just about every parent is faced with the uphill task of taking their children to the dentist’s clinic, at least once in a lifetime. The anxiety and nervousness children experience are a very natural and normal occurrence. Fortunately, paediatric dentists are well trained in these matters and work immaculately with children to address their anxiety.

Paediatric dentists deal with oral health and dental issues for children and adolescents, especially to address therapeutic and preventive concerns. This is also where special needs pertaining to physical, medical, behavioural, and developmental disabilities get addressed.

Paediatric dentists must complete a minimal three years of additional study following general dentistry training and must register as special dentists. The addition training period is spent working under the direction and supervision of dental and medical staff employed at university clinics and hospitals. All this exposure allows a paediatric dentist to manage children’s diverse oral health care needs. Paediatric dentists get their specialist credentials registered with the Dental Board of Australia, and continue to practice majorly in the area of paediatric dentistry.

Through virtue of their registered specialist status, only these practitioners can refer to themselves as paediatric dentists. That is something general dentistry practitioners may not do despite having worked on children’s oral health.


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What is the special training delivered to paediatric dentists in Australia?

Paediatric dentists are trained in the following specialised subjects:

  • The areas of psychological and physical growth and development for children from birth till adulthood.
  • An in-depth exploration of hereditary and acquired oral diseases the likes of decay, gum disease, traumatic dental injuries, tooth-wear, and missing or poor tooth formation. The training includes causes and treatment for all these concerns.
  • A more specialised exploration of individual oral health needs resulting from family environment, family environment, temperament, and background history.
  • A dive into how oral health and dental treatment become impacted by childhood disability and illnesses.
  • Exposure to best practices in children’s oral health, guidelines from existing research and evidence-based treatments.

Paediatric dentists are also trained to:

  • Manage anxieties experienced by young children including the use of specialised approaches for giving dental sedation, local analgesia and performing dental treatment under general anaesthesia.
  • Work with children with a history of physical, medical and intellectual conditions.
  • Be children’s oral health advocates.
  • Identify sources of dental diseases, and help families achieve healthy teeth and oral health
  • Work in close liaison with teachers, allied health professionals, nurses, doctor and paediatricians to ensure best dental health for children.

What do paediatric dentists look for when diagnosing an issue?

Certain children are born with neonatal teeth that develop in the first month of birth and require a visit to the dentist for either their hygiene or their removal. At least one baby tooth can be anticipated to erupt by the sixth month of birth and it will require a visit to a paediatric dentist for cleaning.

Once the process of teething begins from the six month to 24 months, children experience irritability, and they tend to bite on objects, drool and pull their ears. Parents can be of help to the young children by massaging their gums, providing a chilled teething ring, and consulting a paediatric dentist for teething ointments.

Fortunately, most of a baby’s teeth have erupted by the third year of age. After this, spaces for permanent teeth begin to appear. By this time, the jaw, supporting bone structures and facial bones have also begun to grow.

During the age period of six to twelve years, a child can carry both, baby, as well as permanent teeth, in their mouth.

What dental treatments and care can paediatric dentists provide in routine?

  • Paediatric dentists can provide short, day-stay procedures using nitrous oxide sedation in the dental chair or under general anaesthesia. These dental practitioners ensure children cope well with their treatment and become comfortable with dental visits in future.
  • Children with extensive decay or complex treatment needs.
  • Children with genetic and medical conditions.
  • Management of dental injuries to permanent and primary teeth.
  • Management of dental conditions the likes of extra teeth, missing teeth, abnormal eruptions and enamel defects.
  • Children with serious genetic and medical conditions require dental care in combination with other medical doctors and allied health professionals. Paediatric dentists are of immense utility in designing tailored oral health care plans for each child’s needs.

How does a children’s dentist help with early tooth decay detection?

“Streptococci mutans” have been recently identified as the underlying sources of pediatric tooth decay. They are a group of infectious bacteria that strain out the shielding phosphate and calcium from tooth enamel, and the hard tissue known as dentin which is located between the external enamel and the pulp.

Frequent servings of sugar nurture these particular bacteria, and so do improper brushing and flossing methods. The bacteria are transmitted to the baby’s mouth through saliva transfer shortly after the first tooth appears. That’s the six months phase mentioned earlier. The saliva is often from the mother or a caregiver. This can happen through a shared spoon, the baby’s pacifier etc.

What can help prevent tooth decay in children?

As painful as it may sound, baby teeth and permanent teeth affected by cavities are treated the same way as adults; through drilling and filling approaches. However, as dental sciences and advancements progress, practitioners place greater emphasis on prevention.

Some of the measures one can adopt to ensure prevention are:

  • Regularly visiting a paediatric dentist for check-ups right from age 12 months.
  • A healthy nutrition plan comprised of red meat, white meat, eggs, cereals, milks, vegetables and dairy products supports prevention. The consumption of sugary foods should be closely monitored and kept to a minimal.
  • It’s a good idea to supervise children’s brushing habits till the age of 6. For toddlers and babies, it is advisable that parents use washcloth and a miniscule dose of toothpaste from the time the first tooth erupts.
  • Do a monthly check to see if any white or brown horizontal spots have formed near the gums. These are the first sign of tooth decay in the form of demineralization.
  • Signs of demineralisation are found in between teeth or on biting surfaces in the case of children with permanent teeth. Good news is that re-mineralization is possible.
  • Adequate amounts of fluoride are immensely helpful towards prevention. Drinking fluoridated water and using fluoride toothpaste are the way to go.
  • Dental sealants help by shutting out cavity-causing food particles. The sealant is a plastic coating placed on the chewing surface of permanent molars. These are strongly recommended for children at high to moderate risk of decay.
  • Studies have shown the effect of streptococci mutans becoming weak through the use of natural sweetener Xylitol. This can be taken in three equal doses to complete the suggested daily dose of 6 grams. Older children can use the chewing gum version.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are things for parents to watch out for?

Paediatric dentists are available for guidance and consultation throughout your child’s developmental years. There are signs of poor oral health you should keep an eye out for and speak with a dentist should you notice any:

Missing or decayed baby teeth: baby teeth are immensely critical in the placement pattern of permanent teeth that will erupt in later months. If you notice any baby teeth to be missing or showing signs of decay, it can later result in misaligned or crooked permanent teeth. This itself can be a gateway to numerous oral health problems.

In addition to oral health problems, your child can also experience difficulty in chewing food with misaligned teeth. Dental hygiene thus becomes an uphill task.

Thumb Sucking / lip sucking: It’s normal to see babies suck their thumbs. But if the habit has persisted after the eruption of permanent teeth, then it may be a warning sign. The act of sucking can cause bone structure to shift, resulting in misalignments within the jaw or the mouth. Many may not notice, but the lingering of a thumb sucking habit can also hinder the child’s speech in later months and years.

Tongue thrusting: a child’s front teeth can become protruded due to chronic pressing of the tongue against the lips. Addressing this early can save one from long-term dental problems in later years.

Poor nutrition: We’ve stated fruits and vegetables earlier in the list of healthy foods. Some fruits and vegetables that are highly suggested include celery, melons, cucumbers and pears. It would be pertinent to reiterate the avoidance of sugary foods and trying to keep their intake at minimal levels. Encourage your child to clean their teeth after every meal and snack by rinsing the mouth at least. Be sure to give your child frequent doses of water otherwise to keep them hydrated.

Your own oral health: Inherited oral complications and conditions play a key role in determining your child’s dental health. Where parents suffer from tooth decay or periodontal disease, the risk of a child suffering from the same becomes significantly higher. It’s no secret that kids learn by watching their parents. Keep a healthy oral routine for yourself to set a great example for the kiddos!

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