Pediatric Dentists: What Are They and What Is Their Function?

Pediatric dentists specialize in the oral care of children. Keep reading and learn more about the importance of this profession.
Pediatric Dentists: What Are They and What Is Their Function?

Last update: 17 May, 2022

Oral health care from an early age is essential in order to avoid future complications. And with this in mind, pediatric dentists are specially trained professionals whose function is to preserve the good condition of children’s mouths.

Choosing a dentist who specializes in the care of children has many advantages, and in this article, we’ll tell you about them in detail.

What’s a pediatric dentist?

As we’ve already mentioned, a pediatric dentist is a health professional who’s dedicated to the oral care of children. In other words, they have a dental specialization (or postgraduate degree) that focuses on the care and treatment of children’s mouths.

This branch of dentistry, in addition to applying knowledge related to prevention and oral health care, takes into account the psychological aspect of the child. The need to create an affective bond with the little patient is key to achieving a better reception of the treatments.

In addition, this professional considers the importance of parental accompaniment in the care of children. Therefore, adult education is also part of the care.

In general, the pediatric dentist is the first contact children have with the dental field. Their role in the health of the smallest children begins at birth and continues until adolescence.

The first visit to the pediatric dentist should take place before the child’s first birthday and then continue with regular visits every 6 or 12 months, according to the dentist’s recommendations.

This regimen allows close monitoring of the growth and development of the infant’s jaws and control of tooth eruption. In the event of any problem appearing in the mouth, it’s detected and treated early.

Who do pediatric dentists treat?

The main focus of pediatric dentistry is prevention, so its objective is for the child to develop healthy habits that promote oral health from an early age. The aim is to get children to commit themselves to the care and hygiene of their mouths, to prefer a balanced and healthy diet, and to have a positive attitude towards dental visits.

Pediatric dentists take care of the baby from birth and monitor them during infancy, childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. As we said before, in this process, the family has an active role, therefore, the care in the office includes the children and their caregivers.

The task of the pediatric dentist begins, ideally, before the child is born. Through the guidance of the mother during pregnancy.

A toddler looking frightened while sitting in a dentist chair.
Pediatric dentists are responsible for care and prevention when it comes to the oral health of little ones.

The functions of pediatric dentists

We’ve already mentioned several key aspects of pediatric oral care, such as prevention and oral health care, emotional connection, and bonding with the patient. But below, we’ll tell you in detail the most important functions of the dentist for children.

1. Promoting oral health and preventing the most frequent diseases of the mouth

Dental cavities are one of the most frequent diseases in childhood. Their appearance depends, to a great extent, on some harmful behaviors. For example, inadequate oral hygiene and diets rich in sugar. Likewise, the accumulation of bacteria and food debris in the mouth also predisposes children to suffer from gingivitis and bad breath.

So, pediatric dentists teach parents and children the correct practice of oral hygiene and its importance. They’ll insist in every consultation on keeping the mouth clean and removing bacterial plaque with oral cleaning from birth. Also, with tooth brushing, the use of dental floss and fluoride toothpaste when the first teeth appear in the mouth.

Also, the professional advises parents about feeding their children. Maintaining a varied and nutritious diet and avoiding ultra-processed foods and excess sugar are essential to keep the mouth healthy.

In addition, they make recommendations on the textures of foods to promote chewing and thus allow the proper development of the orofacial structures.

Some specific dental practices also help prevent diseases in the mouth of children. Therefore, the dentist can perform dental cleanings, apply fluoride, or place pit and fissure sealants on newly erupted permanent molars.

2. Managing dental anxiety

Visits to the dentist can cause fear, dread, or anxiety in some children. The pediatric dentist has several strategies to make the time a pleasant situation that the child can accept and even enjoy.

The dentist may use games, songs, demonstrations, role-playing, and other tactics to help children become familiar with the dental environment and practices. Frequent, short visits and affectionate treatment are key to helping children gain the confidence they need to accept this type of care.

3. Controlling the growth and development of the mouth and tooth eruption

From the time a child visits the dentist as a baby and throughout childhood and adolescence, their pediatric dentist controls the development of the mouth.

The professional can detect any alteration in the growth of the jaws or in the eruption of the teeth. Also, the presence of harmful or dysfunctional habits that may jeopardize the proper growth of the mouth or the positioning of the teeth. They also seek an appropriate solution for all of them early on.

If deemed appropriate, they’ll refer the patient to an orthodontist. Or if they themself specialize in this area, something very common in pediatric dentists, they’ll apply the appropriate orthopedic and orthodontic treatments.

4. Treating oral diseases

In cases where children present or develop some problem in the mouth, the pediatric dentist will be in charge of diagnosing and treating the situation. For this, they’ll resort to different procedures and techniques to restore the lost health of the child.

The most common dental treatments in children include fillings, crowns, or veneers to restore cavities or treat defects in the enamel. Also, dental cleanings to treat gingivitis.

In necessary cases, pediatric dentists will indicate the use of medications, such as those to control pain, infections, and alterations in the mucosa and soft tissues of the mouth.

Pediatric dentists can perform root canals to preserve badly damaged teeth or extract teeth that can’t be preserved. Depending on the needs of the case and the particularities of the patient, they’ll use local anesthesia, sedation, or general anesthesia.

When baby teeth are lost prematurely, the children’s dentist will proceed to the corresponding rehabilitation. This will restore esthetics and functionality and maintain the space until the eruption of the definitive pieces.

A dentist teaching a child to brush his teeth.
The prevention of oral disease includes routine biannual or annual checkups during childhood.

5. Managing dental trauma

Blows to the mouth are quite frequent situations during childhood and adolescence. Pediatric dentists are the most indicated professionals to treat these traumatic situations in children.

There are several procedures that seek to restore normality to the injured mouth and the choice of one of these will depend on the degree of involvement of the soft tissues, whether they’re baby teeth or permanent elements, or if there’s damage to the alveolar bone.

Therefore, if your child hits their mouth, it’s essential to contact a pediatric dentist immediately. The professional will guide you on how to act and will wait for their little patient in the office to help them after their accident.

6. Caring for patients with disabilities

In addition to the above, a pediatric dentist’s training provides them with several useful resources to care for patients with various disabilities, whether they’re children or adults. For example, people diagnosed with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, among others.

In general, they’re a professional who will be part of the care team for patients with cleft palate, cleft lip, and other craniofacial anomalies.

The importance of visiting a pediatric dentist

Avoiding dental problems from an early age allows children’s mouths to develop and perform their functions normally. Therefore, eating, talking, interacting, and smiling won’t be a concern for them. In addition, with a healthy oral cavity, more complicated, uncomfortable, and expensive treatments are avoided.

Taking your child to a pediatric dentist from the time they’re a baby is a very beneficial attitude for the care of their health. And having a professional trained to care for them will give you peace of mind and will make you feel accompanied in the task of seeking the welfare of your child.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Leache, E. B., Quesada, J. B., Quesada, M. C., Ballesta, C. G., & Mendoza, A. (1995). Odontopediatría (pp. 85-93). Masson.
  • García, B., & Planells, B. A. M. P. (2011). Odontopediatría. La evolución del niño al adulto joven. Madrid-España: Ripano.
  • De Andrade Massara, M. D. L., & Barbosa Rédua, P. C. (2014). Manual de Referencia para procedimientos clinicos en Odontopediatria. In Manual de referencia para procedimientos clínicos en odontopediatría (pp. 264-p).
  • Atapoma, J. A., & Pizán, M. E. D. (2010). Manejo del dolor en odontopediatría. Revista Estomatológica Herediana20(3), 166-166.
  • Abanto, J., Imparato, J. C. P., Guedes-Pinto, A. C., & Bönecker, M. (2012). Anomalías dentarias de impacto estético en odontopediatría: Características y tratamiento. Revista Estomatológica Herediana22(3), 171-171.
  • Bellet, L. J., Sanclemente, C., & Casanovas, M. (2006). Coronas en odontopediatría: revisión bibliográfica. Dentum (Barc.), 111-117.
  • Chinchilla Figueroa, H. S., & Yepez Devia, S. D. (2021). Técnicas de adaptación no farmacológicas usadas en odontopediatría para disminuir la ansiedad durante la consulta odontológica. Revisión de la literatura.
  • Zambrano Palma, P. M. (2011). Farmacología aplicada a la odontopediatria (Bachelor’s thesis, Universidad de Guayaquil. Facultad Piloto de Odontología).
  • Baldeón Arellano, G. A. (2019). Farmacología aplicada a la odontología pediátrica.
  • Abréu, W., & Poche, A. (2018). Efectividad del uso de la musicoterapia en el manejo de la ansiedad en niños de 5 a 10 años que asisten al área de odontopediatría de la Clínica Odontológica Dr. René Puig Bentz de la Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña, período mayo-agosto 2018.
  • Lema, C., & Paúl, B. (2019). Nivel de ansiedad y miedo a la atención odontológica en pacientes de la Clínica de Odontopediatría de la FOD período 2019, mediante las escalas de Corah (Bachelor’s thesis, Quito: UCE).
  • López, L. A. J., Ugalde, R. R., & López, A. A. D. (2014). Factores de riesgo asociados con el estado de ansiedad en niños de cuatro a seis años de edad que acuden por primera vez con el odontopediatra. Revista de la Asociación Dental Mexicana71(1), 9-15.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.