As a parent, you know that children aren’t small-scale adults. Just as they need a pediatric doctor who focuses on their health, they also need a dentist who has the experience and qualifications to care for a child’s teeth, gums and mouth throughout the various stages of childhood. Choosing a pediatric dentist will help give your child the best possible start in oral health for a lifetime.
What is a Pediatric Dentist?
First, what distinguishes a pediatric dentist from a general dentist? Pediatric dentists have completed at least four years of dental school, plus two to three additional years of residency training in dentistry for infants, children, teens, and children with special needs.
Just as importantly, pediatric dentists receive instruction in child psychology — allowing them to appropriately address the emotions and energies that children bring to the chair so that the young patient is calm and cooperates with treatment. Pediatric dentists avoid threatening words like “drill,” “needle” and “injection.” Dental phobias beginning in childhood often continue into adulthood, so it’s important that children have a positive experience.
Advantages That a Pediatric Dentist Provides
General dentists typically deal only with adults, whose permanent set of teeth are established. Pediatric dentists are experienced in infant and childhood dentition, giving them the ability to care for primary (baby) teeth even before they start to come in (erupt) at about six months of age. A baby’s 20 primary teeth are already present in the jaws at birth. Most children have their full set of primary teeth by age three. Primary teeth usually begin to shed at about age six, to be fully replaced by permanent teeth by age 13. The third molars — better known as wisdom teeth — are the exception, emerging (or not) from ages 17 to 21.
For this reason, pediatric dentists are best to guide children — and their parents — from the pre-eruption of primary teeth through the establishment of permanent teeth. According to the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), a child’s first visit should be when the first tooth erupts in the mouth – no later than age one. According to the ADA, a baby can get cavities as soon as he or she has teeth.
Also, as healthychildren.org — a parent-oriented information website presented by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) points out — “Without proper dental care, children face possible oral decay and disease that can cause a lifetime of pain and complications. Early childhood dental caries — an infectious disease — is 5 times more common in children than asthma and 7 times more common than hay fever. About 1 of 5 (20%) children aged 5 to 11 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth.”
To prevent cavities, a pediatric dentist may recommend the application of a dental sealant. Dental sealants are made of a plastic resin that bonds into the pits and fissures of the chewing surfaces on the back teeth, acting as a barrier to protect the enamel from plaque and acids. While this treatment is also available to adults, it can be especially beneficial to children, as they often are unable to brush and floss thoroughly. Our blog post — “Advantages of Dental Sealants for Children and Adults” — covers this treatment in greater detail.
While a general dentist provides care and oral health advice for adults, a pediatric dentist not only treats patients but educates parents so they can reinforce positive oral care habits in their children and make good diet and nutrition choices that are conducive to healthy teeth and gums. Our blog post — “The Best and Worst Foods for a Healthy Smile” — provides a run-down that’s applicable to all ages.
A pediatric dentist also can recognize early signs of trouble — such as tooth decay — and monitor primary teeth as they emerge to ensure they’re growing in properly positioned (and recommend orthodontic intervention if they’re not).
- Infant oral health exams, which include risk assessment for caries.
- Preventive dental care — including cleaning and fluoride treatments, as well as nutrition and diet recommendations.
- Habit counseling (for example, prolonged pacifier use and thumb sucking).
- Early assessment and treatment for straightening teeth and correcting an improper bite (orthodontics).
- Repair of tooth cavities or defects.
- Diagnosis of oral conditions associated with diseases such as diabetes, congenital heart defect, asthma, hay fever, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Management of gum diseases and conditions — including ulcers, oral mucocele (a benign cyst-like growth containing fluid), and pediatric periodontal disease.
- Use of instruments that are specifically designed for children’s dental care.
- Care for dental injuries (for example, fractured, displaced, or knocked-out teeth).
How to Prepare Your Child for Their First Visit to the Dentist
Although pediatric dentists know how to put children at ease, your child should be prepared for their very first visit as much as possible. No matter how kind and reassuring the dentist may be, children are easily stressed by unfamiliar environments and situations. Knowing what to expect at the dental office will go a long way in making sure your child’s first experience with the dentist is a success! Our blog post — “How to Prepare Your Child for Their First Dental Visit” — provides practical advice on introducing your child to the environment of the dental office in a non-threatening manner. We invite you to read the entire blog post to learn more.
- Let your child know about the appointment before or immediately after scheduling it. Explain the purpose of the visit in terms your child can understand.
- There are books and YouTube videos available about what to expect when visiting a dentist for the first time. Share them with your child, reading and/or watching them together. Do this a few days prior to the appointment. Waiting until the day before could likely provoke stress and fear.
The ADA also recommends the following tips. While some are intended for subsequent visits, the basic principles apply to first-timers.
- Don’t schedule an appointment during naptime. Instead, pick a time your child is usually well-rested and cooperative.
- Make sure your child has had a light meal and brushes their teeth before their appointment so they won’t be hungry during their visit.
- Save snacks for after the visit so they aren’t on your child’s teeth during the exam.
While NK Family Dental treats patients of all ages, we give children the specialized attention they deserve! The spa-like ambiance of our office creates a tranquil environment in which Dr. Nilofer Khan and her staff talk to young patients at their level of understanding, giving them a “tour” of the examination room and gently explaining each step of the procedure.
We believe that one of the many advantages NK Family Dental offers is that we are able to treat every member of your family under one roof, at every stage of life. The child you trust to our care from that first appointment can continue here through the teen years to adulthood, always treated by compassionate professionals.
It is our mission to provide the highest quality and most compassionate oral care to our Chicago patients, including both dental and periodontal services. Our practice is trusted for advanced oral surgery procedures and comfortable root canal treatment.
Our team of experienced, dedicated dental professionals will help address your oral health concerns, and determine the best solution for you based on your individual situation. We strive to identify treatment options that fit your needs.
Our dental specialists include our general dentist, Dr. Nilofer Khan, our endodontist, Dr. Sabek, and our periodontist, Dr. Amir Danesh. Dr. Danesh is a board-certified periodontist and Diplomat of the American Board of Periodontology. He has contributed to the publication of two books, as well as published over 20 papers in prestigious dental research journals.
We understand that the main concern you may have is cost, which is why we accept all major PPO plans for dental insurance and also offer our in-house dental plan. Please see our financing page for more information.