Paediatric Dentistry

What is paediatric dentistry and what does a paediatric dentist do?

If you have children at home, you know how important it is to find health care practitioners that not only take care of your kids' health and well-being, but also make them feel comfortable at visits and appointments. Paediatric dentists are specially trained in the art of caring for children, and they help your children's teeth and mouth stay health from birth through their late teens.

Paediatric dentists are ideal practitioners for kids because their experience is directly geared toward the developing mouth. They can spot problems early, recognise common dental issues that plague young people, and are comfortable working with little ones - even toddlers and teething babies!

In terms of their training, paediatric dentists receive two to three years of additional education specifically for the dental and oral health care of children. This makes them well-qualified to tend to the needs of young people, even more so than general practice dentists.

Your children's dentists can advise you and your family on a number of issues, starting with teething at the baby and toddler stage and progressing all the way through the care and maintenance of the fully developed mouth of the older teen. Find a DCN paediatric dentist near you today.

Baby teething

Your child's teeth will begin coming through the gums between the ages of three and 12 months. Those who are familiar with young children know that teething can be a trying experience for babies, parents and care providers alike - to say the least. Teething is a normal part of development, and it's often accompanied by a variety of symptoms that manifest in crying, grumpy babies. - With some know-how and advice from your paediatric dentist, there are things you can do to ease your child's discomfort.

Common symptoms of baby teething


Increased irritability

You'll be clued into the fact that your child is teething by a number of completely normal symptoms. First and foremost, you'll noticed that your baby exhibits increased irritability during this time. Your child is experiencing pain and pressure as the teeth break through the surface of the gums - and this can make babies very crabby! Crying, a refusal to feed and general crankiness will probably showcase themselves for a few hours or even days around the time a new tooth breaks the gum.

Excessive saliva

Throughout the teething period, you'll probably also notice that your baby begins drooling round the clock. This is perfectly normal. The teething process causes the mouth to produce extra saliva, and while this is healthy, it can make caring for your baby a bit messier than it was before about 10 weeks of age. Fastening a bib to your child during this time can help keep all this fluid in check.

Runny nose, coughing and other cold-like symptoms

Runny nose, coughing and other cold-like symptoms sometimes manifest when your child is teething. It's important to differentiate between some of these symptoms and the signs of a cold or the flu. Your paediatric dentist, along with your paediatrician, can help you make the distinction if you're concerned your child may be ill. If it has been determined that these symptoms are no more than signs of teething, rest assured they are a normal part of the process.

Loss of appetite

All that pressure, crabbiness and discomfort can also make your baby less enthusiastic about eating. A refusal to feed is another common symptom of teething. It's important to help your baby stay full and hydrated throughout this phase. If your child doesn't eat well for more than a few days, talk to your care providers to find some solutions.

Teething rash

Finally, your child might also develop a teething rash around the mouth area. This is largely due to the excessive saliva being produced as a result of the teething. To combat the rash, try applying Vaseline or other protective jellies around the mouth area. This can decrease discomfort and create a barrier between the skin and the saliva.

Baby teething: How to ease the distress

Now that we've covered the symptoms of teething, parents might be asking: What can I do to ease the pain? A number of things can help your baby relieve the pressure that has built up in the gums.

  • First and foremost, chewing can provide major relief for your child. It can provide a cathartic sense of release from the pressure in the mouth.
  • An even better tactic is to provide your child with a chewing apparatus that you've chilled in the fridge or freezer, as the cold can help numb the gums.
  • In the same vein, cold foods and beverages can help numb the mouth to provide relief from pain.

You might also want to check with your paediatric dentist and paediatrician to see if gentle pain relief medications might be a good fit for your baby.

Your child's first visit to the dentist

As children grow older, their needs change and evolve. Because they are extensively trained in all the dental phases of childhood, paediatric dentists are well-qualified to handle care throughout kids' young lives. Many parents wonder what they should expect upon their first visit to a dentist for children.

When should my child first see a dentist?

First, parents might be wondering: At what age should my child visit the dentist for the first time? Many experts recommend taking your child to the paediatric dentist by about one year old, or within a few months after the first tooth comes in. There are some exceptions to this rule - if your child's teeth seem discoloured, it's best to pay the dentist a visit as soon as possible.

What to expect during your child's first dental visit

Your toddler's first dentist appointment will mostly be about getting to know the paediatric dentist, and giving him or her information about your family medical history and situation. The dentist will check for tooth decay, ensure that the palate is formed normally, and probably give you some ideas and best practices for taking care of your little one's oral health. Topics you cover could include the importance of fluoride, the topic of thumb and pacifier/dummy sucking, daily oral hygiene care for little ones, and teething.

Ongoing dental care for kids

From that initial visit all the way through to the teenage years, your son or daughter will need to take great care of his or her teeth in order to prevent problems down the line. Your children's dentist will advise you more closely on some of the following topics, but here's a general outline of some of the most important things to keep in mind as you provide ongoing care for your child's teeth.

Tooth Decay

First and foremost is the prevention of cavities and tooth decay. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, a full 50 per cent - that's half - of all Australian kids have tooth decay in their adult teeth at age 12. Parents might know some of the basics of preventing tooth decay - brushing teeth regularly, not overindulging in sugary foods and beverages, etc. - but here's some information on exactly why you need to observe these best practices, and how not doing so can lead to tooth decay.

Dental health issues primarily arise from a build up of plaque on the teeth. But what exactly is plaque and how does it form? Plaque is a film of bacteria that forms on the structures in the mouth. Plaque in the presence of sugars leads to the production of acid. This is why parents are instructed to keep their kids away from sugary foods as much as possible - the sugar feeds the plaque, which causes tooth decay.

Making sure your child visits the dentist on a regular basis is an important part of keeping plaque at bay. Not only will the paediatric dentist be able to advise your child on the importance of good oral hygiene habits, he or she will give your child a semi-annual teeth cleaning that removes stubborn plaque that may not have been reached through brushing and flossing.

Fluoride information

Fluoride is another important component in maintaining strong teeth. The Australian government - as well as the governments of numerous other developed nations - maintain that fluoride is beneficial for the prevention of cavities and tooth decay. Fluoride is a natural nutrient found in the human body, and it has a high potency for increasing the strength of teeth and therefore increasing their resistance to decay and cavities.

It is for this reason that fluoride is added to the drinking water of many countries, including Australia. Fluoride is added to water sources at levels that have been deemed not only safe, but beneficial for public health and well-being.

Fluoride can also be obtained through the use of toothpastes and mouthwashes. Many of these products are specially formulated for young children, as well - generally, kids' toothpastes and mouthwashes have just enough fluoride to strengthen teeth, but not enough that children could be adversely affected should they swallow the product in excess (as young children often do).

Preventative care

When visiting a paediatric dentist, you and your child will learn a wealth of information about preventative care. These tactics are beneficial for long-term oral and dental well-being, as taking care of cavities and tooth decay before they start will be less costly in the long run.

Your dentist will advise your child on how important it is to avoid consuming sugary foods in excess. He or she may also recommend substitutes - such as sugar-free gum - that can stand in for otherwise highly sweetened products.

Baby teething

Remember that frustrating period of crabbiness, drooling and refusal to feed we mentioned before? A paediatric dentist can be a great resource during this part of your baby's life. Dentists for children can provide advice, guidance and ideas for relieving a teething toddler's discomfort, and can help parents differentiate between normal teething symptoms and colds or the flu.

Oral health tips for children

Your dentist will be able to advise you on the best daily maintenance tips for young mouths, but here's a quick run-down on the most important concepts to keep in mind.

Foods

What children put into their mouths has an understandable impact on their dental health. As with adult oral health, a healthy diet that helps promote general health and prevent tooth decay is recommended.

As you might expect, limiting your child's sugar intake is an important part of any tooth-friendly diet. Drinking plentiful amounts of water is also beneficial, as water will help wash away leftover sugar that might otherwise remain in the nooks and crevices of the mouth, causing plaque. Eating a diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, fruits, lean meats and healthy dairy products (no sugary yoghurt!) is great for maintaining good oral health.

Brushing and flossing

Obviously, good brushing and flossing habits are critical for preventing cavities. Look for a soft, thistle brush, and encourage your child to brush for a duration of two minutes, twice a day. Teach your young one to brush up and down, back and forth, and in a circular motion to remove plaque and food particles from all angles.

Children's dental emergencies

Having a good paediatric dentist will also help you know to whom you should turn in the event of a dental emergency. Active, fun-loving kids are often a high risk for these kinds of problems - sports, for example, can have the unfortunate consequence of tooth loss or mouth injuries.

Many dental practices offer after-hours care specifically for such events. Getting to know the options in your area is important for getting the right treatment should such a situation arise.

More information

Now that you know why it's important to find a good paediatric dentist, it's time to research your options. Kids Chompers offers high-quality children's dental care from trained paediatric dentists that are well-versed in the care and keeping of young teeth.

Australian parents should also become well-versed in the Child Dental Benefits Schedule, an option open to most parents of children aged two through 17. This government programme provides parents with financial help for dental care of their children. If you and your family receive Medicare benefits and assistance such as Family Tax Benefit Part A, you may be eligible to receive financing through the CDBS.

The Dental Care Network has more than 200 hand-selected dentists working throughout Australia and New Zealand. A number of our care providers focus on paediatric dentistry, giving you options for the entire family. Find a DCN children's dentist in your area and get your child on the path to a healthy mouth from an early age.

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