One of the most important duties a parent has is looking after the health of their child’s teeth. Many people believe all that matters is a tooth’s appearance. That is certainly not true. Bad oral health can have lasting consequences such as bad breath and deterioration of the jawbone. The following terms can help educate first time parents so that they are better prepared for caring for their kid’s dental hygiene.
Pedodontics – Now commonly known as pediatric dentistry, this branch of medicine focuses on the care and treatment of the teeth of children. Dentists who specialize in Pedodontics treat patients from birth to adolescence.
Orthodontics – The school of dentistry that aims to prevent and correct abnormalities in teeth. Orthodontics can include minimizing an overbite, measuring for a retainer, and braces.
Veneer – A thin layer placed on top of a tooth. There are two reasons dentists have for adding veneers to teeth. One is to improve the appearance of an individual’s smile. The other is to protect the surface of a tooth from further damage.
Denture – A set of imitation teeth, either partial or complete. Though rare in pediatric dentistry, children may need dentures for a variety of reasons, such as extreme decay caused by disease.
Bridge – Artificial teeth that are attached to one’s real teeth. There are two types: permanent and removable.
Crown – This can either refer to the part of the tooth covered by enamel or the synthetic replacement of this part that has been added by a dentist on damaged or decayed teeth.
Gingivitis – The medical name for a gum disease 50% of people fall prey to at some point in their lives. This caused inflammation at the gums and root of teeth.
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Pediatric dentists specialize in cleaning and maintaining the teeth of children and adolescents. Pedodontics also work to educate their patients on proper tooth hygiene, gum diseases and the importance of regular dental care. Such professionals are skilled at making children comfortable with their treatment and helping them protect their temporary and permanent teeth when they develop.
Typically, pediatric dentists will offer different treatments than those who maintain adult or family practices. As they often work with temporary teeth, it is rare that they apply veneers, porcelain crowns or bridges. Some will fill a cavity if it develops in temporary teeth, or fix a break or chip that is causing a child pain. In other cases, these standard treatments are forgone in favor of an extraction until the permanent tooth develops. They do, however, monitor overall oral health, which has been shown to have an impact on a child's broader health and school performance.
Pedodontics also includes emergency treatments, such as bonding or molar extraction. Often a referral to an endontic surgeon is required for these procedures, even if they are performed on temporary teeth. Orthodontic dentistry is another common need for adolescents. Orthodontics, meaning to straighten, ensures that adult teeth come in straight and that the patient's bite is lined up well. Though this is sometimes considered to be an aesthetic procedure, like the implantation of veneers, it can also help to improve overall dental health. Some of these same practices will work with adults to create dentures, but many specialize only in installing and maintaining braces.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry maintains a database of licensed pedodontic specialists throughout the country. For patients who are looking for a family practitioner who will do everything from braces to dentures, general practitioners are also available.