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Dental Specialties - Pediatric Dentistry

Pediatric Dentistry is the specialty of dentistry dealing with children and young people through adolescence, and special needs patients of all ages.

You might wonder what technical specialization is needed when taking care of children? The answer to this is that most children can easily be treated by a general dentist. However, some children are really scared or have attention span difficulties or other challenges that make dental treatment in the traditional setting impossible.

What kinds of cases might end up needing to be seen by a pediatric dentist? Most kids need a little more attention and special kindness. Some, however, are so scared they cannot stop crying even when no treatment is planned for that day. Others grab at everything placed even close to their face. Others, even with lots of explanation, simply refuse to allow anyone to enter the mouth with anything. Thankfully, the days of simply forcing the child to do what he or she is told are over.

Tell, show, do is a common way to get a child on board with planned dental treatment. With the tell, show, do model, the dentist or assistant describes in detail and in easy words what is planned. Next the child is shown what tools are to be used and how. The child is encouraged to touch the drill and the filling material and most other tools. Pictures might also be used to help in showing the child what is planned and the steps involved. Finally, the procedure is initiated and the exact order and tools shown right before the procedure is started are employed. There are no extras thrown in on the do part that have not been clearly demonstrated in the tell and show portions. This method reduces anxiety and shows the child that there will be no surprises. Usually the tell show do model is all that is needed to allow the child to allow whatever needs to be done to proceed. As well, with this method, subsequent dental appointments become easier for most children since the child knows what is to be done, that no one is going to try to trick him, and that no one will force him to do anything. Tell, show, do along with offering a small reward after the treatment is done represents most of the tools of convincing children to act as willing participants in the general dentist’s chair.

When tell, show, do is not enough, a pediatric dentist is often used. The pediatric dentist usually has more staff to convince the little one, works a bit faster, and also is trained in the use of many more sedative agents than the general dentist. You might have caught on by now that the technical treatment of the mouth of the child is no more complicated than the treatment of the mouth of an adult. In fact, usually is considerably less complicated. Where the extra expertise of a pediatric dentist comes in is in the behaviour management of the child. I have seen some interesting methods employed by pediatric dentists over the years. One fellow I knew years ago used a puppet to liven up the tell, show, do portion of the appointment. Another dressed up in a costume. These are unusual approaches, but seemed to be very effective for the people I knew who used them.

Parents and interested parties need to understand that in time, nearly all children who need the pediatric dentist for a while in their young lives will grow out of that need. Being really scared is almost never a permanent condition (but it easily could be become one if someone tries to force treatment on them). Extra kindness and more attention on the part of the grown ups both at the dental office and at home will reduce the amount of time in the child’s life that he or she is afraid of the dentist. Using the trip to the dentist as some sort of punishment for not brushing his teeth is not a good idea because from a parent’s point of view, this sort of treatment before the dental visit may make treatment impossible at the general dentist’s office. Gentleness at home and when the child visits the general dentist often make a visit to a pediatric dentist in the city unnecessary. The dentist and dental staff have received extensive training in reducing the fear a child might have. If you have questions about how you can help to make your child’s visit to the dentist more comfortable, you should ask your dentist.

- This article was written by Dr. Mike Christensen and published in the Daily Miner and News, and Enterprise. Local Kenora News Publicatons (1998-2006)

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