portrait of african american boy on blue background

If you’re a new parent, you will eventually have to choose a dentist for your little one. Are there differences between regular dentists and pediatric dentists? The answer to that question is a definite yes! Dr. Matt at Smiles Dentistry for Kids can help you understand why.

First Things First

Baby teeth begin to grow in a child’s mouth within the first six months of life. By 6 or 7 years old, a child loses her baby teeth and begins to grow her permanent set. Without proper dental care, decay and disease developed during a child’s early years can last a lifetime.

Ok, but what exactly is a pediatric dentist?

Pediatric dentists devote their practice to pediatric oral health, from infancy all the way through the teen years. They are experienced and are qualified to care for a little one’s teeth and gums throughout those years.

Interesting. Do pediatric dentists have special training and qualifications?

Yes! Dental training requires four years of education and experience in a clinical setting. Candidates have to earn a bachelor’s degree, graduate from dental school, and then pass certification exams to become a licensed dentist. Additionally, pediatric dentists must complete two extra years of speciality training for:

  • Infants
  • Children
  • Teenagers
  • Special needs children

What kind of treatments do pediatric dentists provide?

Tons! They include but are not limited to:

  • Oral examinations, which includes risk assessment for caries
  • Preventive care, which includes cleanings as well as dietary and nutritional recommendations
  • Help with habit-breaking such as pacifier or thumb sucking
  • Early discovery of the need for corrective orthodontics, for dental alignment and/or bite correction
  • Treatment of cavities and other defects
  • Management of gum disease and conditions including ulcers, mucoceles, and pediatric periodontal disease
  • Emergency care for damaged or knocked-out teeth

I love my little one, but he can be a handful. Are pediatric dentists trained for tikes like mine?

Yes. Pediatric dentists know that most children are not always calm and cooperative during dental visits. Pediatric dentists know how to conduct a dental examination in ways that make children feel comfortable.

Additionally, the equipment in a pediatric dentist’s office is arranged and the office is decorated with children in mind.

Is there anything I can do to prepare my child for his first visit?

Indeed there is. This checklist should prove helpful:

  • Answer your child’s questions positively and avoid using scary words. The vast majority of first visits do not include any painful procedures, so avoid using words like “hurt.”
  • Give the child some control over the visit. Letting him decide which of his favorite toys to bring along, for example, may help.
  • Once you’re at the office, let your dentist have the stage. This will allow him to connect and build a relationship with your child. (Remember there will be plenty of time to ask questions after the examination.)

Do I, as a parent, have a role to play in my child’s ongoing oral health?

Yes. In fact a parent or caregiver plays the most important role in a child’s ongoing dental care. Ask questions to make sure you understand the dentist’s recommendations. This includes discussing topics like cavity prevention, treatment and when the use of anesthesia may be recommended.

Dr. Matt and our team are ready to help you and your little one with every step of his oral care. Call our Overland Park, KS, office at (913) 685-9990 or schedule an appointment online today.

Little patient conversing with her dentist at dental office before her regular checkup for cavities and gum disease.

While it’s more prevalent in adults, younger kids and adolescents are still at risk for periodontal (gum) disease. Something worth smiling about is that gum disease is treatable. In this article, we talk about gum disease and how to handle it.

How Gum Disease Forms in Children

When harmful bacteria, food particles, and sugar build up on teeth and gums, they produce a sticky film called plaque. Plaque buildup can lead to puffy, inflamed, and bleeding gums. If this gets worse, severe gum disease can loosen teeth and damage the soft tissue and bones underneath them.

Signs of Gum Disease in Children and Teens

Chronic gingivitis is widespread in children and is the mildest form of gum disease. Here are four signs of gingivitis:

  • Inflamed gums that look puffy, swollen, and bright red
  • Bleeding gums during brushing, flossing, or any other time
  • Bad breath (halitosis) that does not clear up after brushing and flossing
  • Calculus (hardened plaque and tartar) builds up

Thankfully, gingivitis is treatable and reversible through at-home hygiene routines and professional dental intervention. However, left untreated, gingivitis can gradually progress into more severe forms of periodontal disease.

Periodontitis happens in otherwise healthy young people and typically attacks around puberty or later in life. The three stages of periodontitis are:

·        Early stages of periodontitis stem from gingivitis. Gums may recede or move away from the teeth and sometimes expose tooth roots. Slight bone and connective tissue loss are common signs during the initial stage of periodontitis. Patients may also experience sensitivity to temperature or discomfort when chewing.

·        Moderate periodontitis is more destruction of bone and connective tissue. Multiple teeth may be abnormally spaced and feel loose or separated. Periodontal pockets begin to form and fill with bacteria and tartar.

·        Severe jaw bone loss and increased tooth mobility accompany advanced forms of gum disease. Periodontal pockets deepen and may fill with bacteria, tartar, and even pus (if infected). Teeth are more at risk of falling out at the advanced stage of gum disease.

How to Prevent Gum Disease

A consistent oral hygiene routine is the most efficient way to prevent and treat gum disease. Simple oral hygiene care includes:

  • Thoroughly brushing and flossing teeth twice a day
  • Using a pea-sized fluoridated toothpaste (if the child is over two years of age)
  • Rinsing the mouth with a mouthwash to reduce oral bacteria
  • Enjoying a healthy diet that is low in sugar and starch
  • Visiting the dentist twice a year for checkups and cleanings

Good oral hygiene routines are essential for babies, children, and teenagers. While it’s normal for a kid to sneak a sweet treat or miss brushing here and there—sticking to at-home oral hygiene, eating a balanced diet, and regular dental checkups are imperative. These healthy habits help protect children against gum disease and other health problems.

How to Treat Gum Disease

Here are some ways dentists treat all stages of gum disease:

  • Good dental habits (as mentioned in the last section) can help fight gingivitis.
  • Scaling and root planing can remove plaque and tartar on the surface of the teeth and under the gum lines. This treatment can also smooth tooth roots and reattach gums to the teeth.
  • Antibiotics may be put in the periodontal pockets or orally in a pill form. Sometimes, dentists also prescribe an anti-bacterial
  • Surgery is needed to restore gingival tissues damaged by advanced gum disease.

Track and Treat Gum Disease in Overland Park, KS

Childhood gum disease requires professional care. Dr. Matt helps parents manage and treat gum conditions that detriment oral health and overall wellness. Call 913-685-9990 or message us online to schedule an appointment at Smiles Dentistry for Kids.

We are excited to welcome Dr Tara Craven to the Smiles Dentistry for Kids team!Learn More