Contrary to the popular belief, the Indian subcontinent still lags behind the Western countries when considered in terms of awareness about the oral care of children. Very few people are aware about the speciality in dentistry concerned exclusively for the oral health care for children – Pediatric Dentistry. Just like the Pediatricians who are child specialist doctors, the Pedodontists are Child specialist dentists. The pedodontists acquire the knowledge of child psychology and the skills of treating a child after undergoing a 3 year post graduation course under the guidance of experts.
The incidence of dental caries (tooth decay) amongst children is on the rise due to multiple reasons such as change in the diet patterns as well as negligence towards the oral care and lack of awareness and motivation for the same. On the other hand, dental caries is definitely preventable. A number of preventive as well as treatment strategies are available in the modern times to deal with tooth decay.
Very few parents are aware of the fact that their child’s first dental visit should be no later than his/her first birthday. Unfortunately, most parents approach the dentist only when their child suffers from toothache. Even more disappointing is the wrong belief of majority of the mass that decay in deciduous teeth need not be treated as they are supposed to exfoliate (fall off) sooner or later. Deciduous teeth are very important to be preserved till the permanent teeth erupt. When the deciduous teeth decay or exfoliate earlier than usual, it may result in lack of space in future for eruption of permanent teeth which is to occupy its place. This may lead to malaligned teeth and subsequent need for straightening of teeth (orthodontic treatment). Moresoever, any child who has habits like thumb sucking (beyond a certain age), mouth breathing or tongue thrusting may develop proclined (forwardly placed) front teeth/malaligned teeth and require teeth straightening treatment later. This scenario can be corrected in the making by a pedodontist by intercepting the habit. A pediatric dentist also specializes in treatment of children with special health care needs such as visually impaired child, autistic child, child with speech or hearing impairment and even the mentally challenged child.
The basic reason for the need of a specialist for treating children is the child’s mental set up, that has a fear of unknown as its inherent part. Often the parents are also afraid of the dental visit and they unknowingly instill the same fear in their children. More often than not, dental procedures involve some discomfort on the part of the patient. But when undertaken in a well equipped set up by a well trained dentist, dental treatment can be totally pain free. On the same lines, a pedodontist is trained to modify and manage the behavior of the child to the better by communicating and informing the child about the procedures so that both the parent and the child may experience an easy and a comfortable dental visit. Very young children and those who cannot cooperate despite multiple efforts have the option of undergoing dental treatment under sleepy effects of medications or general anaesthesia.