Paediatric Dentistry is a main branch of dentistry that focuses on the dental and oral health of children. There is a need for a specialised branch of medicine when dealing with the dental health of children as children cannot be treated as ‘young adults’. Considering oral health and dental needs of children as similar to that of adults would be incorrect.
Paediatric Dentistry does not aim only at different dental procedures to fix and extract milk teeth. It also involves guiding and teaching oral care for children at every stage in their development. This begins right from infancy when the first tooth erupts until they are adults. Proper care and attention need to be given at each developmental stage of a child to enjoy continued good oral health.
Significance of Paediatric Dentistry
An important part of developmental milestones in children is dental health. Focus areas that come under this special branch of dentistry are many. Few are examined in brief.
- Familiarising kids with good oral hygiene habits
A paediatric dentist provides support to kid’s right from when the first teeth erupt or even before. Babies consume a lot of food that is high in sugar content. Constantly consuming these type of food will affect the health of the teeth that is erupting.
Dental consultations can be a good venue for teaching children about oral health and a good diet. Discussing various aspects with children and showing them how to achieve good oral health – by teaching them the proper techniques of brushing will go a long way. Dental consultations need not be restricted only during tooth extraction. Consultations should be ideally held twice a year.
- Guiding parents and caregivers on oral health
As they say, good habits begin at home. And this statement holds good for dental care. Parents and caregivers teach children about the importance and basics of oral health. To carry out this important task, paediatric dentists provide support to parents/caregivers. The dental need of each child is different. Understanding the different needs of each child and equipping them with the skills to take care of their dental health is vital.
If good personal hygiene is not followed in terms of oral health, then milk teeth will fall out earlier than their set time. The jaw bones might not be able to provide the support the teeth need. This can lead to permanent teeth growing crooked or misaligned. Dental consultations will help get the correct picture of the dental health of a child. This helps the paediatric dentist in giving proper guidance to parents.
- Counselling for specific habits among toddlers
Some children develop habits that soothe them – thumb sucking, lip sucking and tongue thrusting are the common habits. Thumb sucking is a natural reflex seen in many children. This habit can affect how the teeth erupt. Alignment of teeth can be affected and so also the nature of jaw bones. In tongue thrusting, the tongue thrusts out when the lips touch. This habit usually goes away as the child grows older, if it does not then help from paediatric dentists should be sought. In lip sucking, the child will suck the lips between its teeth. This habit if not ceased will affect the speech development of the child.
Expert guidance can be sought from the paediatric dentist in situations where the parents are not able to stop this habit. Understanding when the child restores to this habit, diverting the kid’s attention to other things and slowly helping the child stop these habits can be tried out.
- Caring and treating dental problems
Children have similar dental problems like adults. Tooth decay, gum diseases, plaque build-up and bad breath, misaligned teeth, overcrowding of teeth are all seen among children. The dental health of children is very dissimilar to that of adults. Teeth in children are in their formative years and proper attention must be given to that fact. How the jaw bones are developing, how the teeth are going to be aligned etc. must all be understood when dealing with teeth among children.
Teeth extraction, root canal etc. are some procedures that are done by paediatric dentists to save the dental health of children. If there is overcrowding of teeth, then dentists would recommend a particular age to go for the wearing braces. This will depend on each child and the decision is taken after dental consultation. Overcrowding of teeth will also affect speech development in children.
- Providing therapeutic support for different oral conditions
Paediatric dentists do not just deal with common dental health problems, they also provide their guidance in the case of children who have other medical conditions. Children with cerebral palsy, mental retardation, learning disabilities all have specific dental needs. Dentists need to be aware of these issues and each condition must be dealt with specifically. Giving directions in a way that the child can follow simple instructions is one a special skill of a paediatric dentist.
Children are generally apprehensive when going to a doctor and especially so in the case of a dentist. They will be worried and tensed as they usually associate dentists with teeth extraction. Parents need to talk to their children about dental sessions. They should help the child understand how the sessions are conducted. Once the child understands the procedures and how it helps them – they will be more comfortable with going to the dentist.
Paediatric dentistry is a specialised branch that provides therapeutic, aesthetic, physical and psychological dental well-being of children right from infancy to adolescence. It is important that when seeking care from dentists, parents check and seek guidance from skilled paediatricians when they go for consultations.