Pediatric dentistry is the specialty of dentistry that focuses on the oral health of children and adolescents. After completing a four-year dental school education, two to three additional years of residency training in dentistry for infants, children, adolescents, and patients with special healthcare needs are required to become a pediatric dentist. Some pediatric dentists also choose to undergo board certification process.
Children are not just small adults. They are not always able to be cooperative for dental exams or procedures. Pediatric dentists are trained to know how to examine and treat children in ways that make them comfortable and provide the best dental care possible. Pediatric dentists can determine if additional measures are needed to help provide the best experience for the child, such as using nitrous oxide or deep sedation (IV sedation), both of which are offered at our office.
Oral Health for Infants and Children
Children begin to get their baby teeth during the first 6 months of life. Around the age of 6 or 7, children start to lose their first set of teeth, which are replaced by their permanent teeth. Without proper dental care from the time they get their first tooth, children face possible dental decay and oral disease that can cause pain and/or a lifetime of complications. Childhood dental caries (ie. cavities) is the most common chronic infectious disease of childhood, which is 5 times more common in children than asthma. Tooth decay is largely a preventable disease and early dental care is key to prevention.
The first dental visit should occur shortly after the first baby tooth erupts, or by age 1 at the latest. Beginning dental visits early has been shown to improve the chance of preventing dental disease. It can also help detect early stages of tooth decay that can be easily treated. As with all routine dental exams for children, the first visit includes a cleaning, fluoride application, exam, and age appropriate oral hygiene/diet instructions. It is common for children to be nervous or cry during their first visit, but starting routine visits at a younger age will help your child become more comfortable with the dentist in the event they would require treatment in the future. Pediatric dentists are many times the best providers for early dental visits due to their additional training in providing care for children of all ages, including infants.
Nitrous oxide, also known as “laughing gas”, is a mild form of sedation for patients who are nervous or anxious to receive dental treatments. Nitrous oxide helps to ease patients’ fears to help them relax during their visit, and to receive dental treatment in a comfortable and safe manner.
Nitrous oxide is perhaps the safest sedative in dentistry. It is well tolerated, having a rapid onset, is reversible, can be adjusted in various concentrations, and is non-allergenic. The patient remains fully conscious-keeps all natural reflexes- when breathing the gases. He/she will be capable of responding to a question or request.
Nitrous oxide may not be effective for some patients, especially those who have severe anxiety or cannot/ are not breathing in the nasal mask properly. The dentist will review each patient’s medical history, level of anxiety, and dental treatment needs and inform you if nitrous oxide is recommended.
Deep sedation, or IV sedation, is a drug-induced depression of consciousness during which patients cannot be easily awakened. IV sedation can alleviate severe anxiety and phobias associated with dental treatment to make any procedure more comfortable. In addition, patients with a severe gag reflex, or those who have difficulty tolerating lengthy dental procedures often benefit from IV sedation.
Although there is some risk associated with deep sedation, it can be used safely and effectively when administered by appropriately trained individuals and when proper precautions are taken. Our office utilizes the services of dental anesthesiologists to perform IV sedations. Our doctors will determine if IV sedation is safe for each patient through physical assessment and medical history review. It is very important for each patient to follow instructions regarding fasting from food/liquids prior to the appointment as well as to report any illnesses to the doctor.
While under sedation, the patient’s blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, and oxygen levels are closely monitored. After treatment, the patient will remain in the recovery area to rest comfortably until dismissed by the anesthesiologist (usually 15-30 minutes following the procedure). The patient should be able to resume normal activities the following day.
- Dr. Gregory Long
- Dr. Jeff Borandi
- Dr. Chris Lewis
- Dr. Anthony Wach