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Pediatric Dentistry

Pediatric Dentistry in Menifee

Pediatric dentistry (formerly Pedodontics/Paedodontics) primarily focuses on children from birth through adolescence.  The American Dental Association (ADA), recognizes pediatric dentistry as a specialty, and therefore requires dentists to undertake two or three years of additional training after completing a general dentistry degree.  At the end of this training, the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry issues a unique diploma (Diplomate ABPD).  Some pediatric dentists (pedodontists) opt to specialize in oral care for children with special needs, specifically children with autism, varying levels of mental retardation, or cerebral palsy.

One of the most important components of pediatric dentistry is child psychology.  Pediatric dentists are trained to create a friendly, fun, social atmosphere for visiting children, and always avoid threatening words like “drill,” “needle,” and “injection.”  Dental phobias beginning in childhood often continue into adulthood, so it is of paramount importance that children have positive experiences and find their “dental home” as early as possible.

What Does a Pediatric Dentist Do?

Pediatric dentists fulfill many important functions pertaining to the child’s overall oral health and hygiene.  They place particular emphasis on the proper maintenance and care of deciduous (baby) teeth, which are instrumental in facilitating good chewing habits, proper speech production, and also hold space for permanent teeth.

Other important functions include:

Education – Pediatric dentists educate the child using models, computer technology, and child-friendly terminology, thus emphasizing the importance of keeping teeth strong and healthy.  In addition, they advise parents on disease prevention, trauma prevention, good eating habits, and other aspects of the home hygiene routine.

Monitoring growth – By continuously tracking growth and development, pediatric dentists are able to anticipate dental issues and quickly intervene before they worsen.  Also, working towards earlier corrective treatment preserves the child’s self-esteem and fosters a more positive self-image.

Prevention – Helping parents and children establish sound eating and oral care habits reduces the chances of later tooth decay.  In addition to providing check ups and dental cleanings, pediatric dentists are also able to apply dental sealants and topical fluoride to young teeth, advise parents on thumb- sucking/pacifier/smoking cessation, and provide good demonstrations of brushing and flossing.

Intervention – In some cases, pediatric dentists may discuss the possibility of early oral treatments with parents.  In the case of oral injury, malocclusion (bad bite), or bruxism (grinding), space maintainers may be fitted, a nighttime mouth guard may be recommended, or reconstructive surgery may be scheduled.

Dental Appliances for Children

Though many parents think of “teenagers” when presented with the term “dental appliances,” the use of such appliances in young children is very common.  Some dental appliances may be recommended for preventative purposes, while others may be recommended for treatment purposes.

It can be extremely difficult to encourage young children to wear removable dental appliances regularly, but there is some good news.  Pediatric dental appliances can prevent injury to the teeth and may also reduce (or even eliminate) the need for extensive treatment later.

What types of pediatric dental appliance are most common?

There are many types of pediatric dental appliances – each one fulfilling a different dental function.  The major categories of pediatric dental appliance are described below:

Mouth Guards

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and American Dental Association (ADA) recommend that children wear mouth guards when engaging in any potentially injurious activity, including sporting and recreational endeavors.

The pediatric dentist can craft a customized mouth guard for the child, or a thermoplastic “boil-and-bite” mouth guard can be purchased at a sporting goods store.  Similar mouth guards are used for children who “brux” or grind their teeth at night.

Space Maintainers

Sometimes, primary (baby) teeth are lost prematurely due to trauma or decay.  Adjacent teeth tend to shift to fill the space, causing spacing and alignment problems for permanent (adult) teeth.  Space maintainers or “spacers” are inserted as placeholders until the permanent teeth are ready to erupt.  There are two main types of space maintainer:

  • Fixed space maintainers – Depending on the position of the missing tooth and the condition of the surrounding teeth, the pediatric dentist may adhere a “band and loop,” a “crown and loop,” or a “distal shoe” type of spacer to fill the empty gap.  All spacers fulfill the same function; just the nature of the attachment to the adjacent teeth differs.  Fixed spacers are usually made of metal and are highly durable.  If a highly visible tooth is missing, an acrylic button may be added to reduce the esthetic impact.
  • Removable space maintainers – Removable spacers are rarely used with young children.  Working a little like orthodontic retainers, special plastic parts fit into the empty slot to prevent the “drifting” of adjacent teeth.

Thumb Sucking Appliances

The majority of children naturally outgrow their thumb-sucking habit.  However, children who continue to thumb suck after the age of five or six (especially vigorously) risk oral complications.  These complications include: narrowed arches, impacted teeth, and misaligned teeth.  The “palatal crib” appliance usually stops thumb sucking immediately.

The “crib” is crafted and affixed to the teeth by the pediatric dentist, almost like a barely visible set of dental braces.  Preventing the thumb from reaching the roof of the mouth reduces gratification – and breaks the habit very quickly.  Removable variations of the “crib” are also available, and can be used depending on the age of the child and his or her willingness to cooperate.

Expansion Appliances

An overbite, where the upper front teeth protrude over the lower front teeth, can be corrected with an expansion appliance, as can a crossbite.  The expansion appliance is used to stretch and widen the arch, providing enough space for the teeth to be realigned in a straight manner.  Expansion appliances are custom-made, and can be affixed to the inside or the outside of the teeth.  Children born with a cleft palate may be required to wear an expansion appliance to prepare the jaw for oral surgery.

Bionator

If the pediatric dentist suspects that the child’s jaws are not growing in proportion to one another, a bionator device may be recommended.  In general, the bionator positions the lower jaw forward, helping the teeth to erupt and align properly.  This dental appliance is successful in reducing extensive orthodontic treatments later on, and helps to promote natural-looking alignment.

Contact Our Children's Dentist in Menifee

If you have questions or concerns about pediatric dentistry, please contact our office.

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