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Pediatric Dentistry

Updated on March 24, 2012
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Pedodontics, or pediatric dentistry, is the provision of dentistry for children. Children have special dental needs as they produce two sets of teeth and hence have more teeth to care for than adults.

Teeth start forming at a very early stage before birth below the gums. As the teeth calcify and grow, they push their way into the mouth. The lower incisors or front teeth generally appear first, at about six months of age. By two and a half years, all the first or deciduous (because they are shed like autumn leaves) teeth are present. At six years, those front teeth are replaced by the permanent teeth, which coming up underneath resorb the root until there is none left, and the little crown that remains joins the tooth fairy market. At the same time, the permanent six-year molars appear at the back of the mouth behind the last of the deciduous molars. Those molars and the little eye teeth in front of them are not lost until about the age of twelve, when the second wave of permanent teeth appear. Again the twelve-year molars appear behind the six-year molars. The wisdom teeth appear many years later to complete the set.

As teeth are forming in the jaws, they should be exposed to an optimum amount of fluoride in the blood supply. Most water supplies in Australia have an optimum amount either naturally or artificially supplemented. In those areas which do not, mainly in rural areas, the fluoride should be supplied by the children's guardians on a daily basis by tablets or drops. With optimum fluoride, the resulting enamel of the teeth is very much more resistant to attack from the acids causing tooth decay.

Teeth that come through crookedly will generally straighten themselves out as they grow, if they have enough room to move in. If not, they should be corrected by an orthodontist at about the age of twelve or when all the permanent teeth appear.

Faults can occur as teeth are forming. Some faults are hereditary. Some teeth do not form at all; others may be misshaped. Some teeth may fuse together. Other faults may be acquired. A disease suffered while teeth are forming may leave its mark on the teeth. Some antibiotics may affect teeth as they form, but this is less common as awareness grows.

Children's diet should be sensible. Foods rich in sugar are dangerous to teeth and poor nutritionally. Daily intake of sugar-laden foods can be easily reduced by not having them in the household at all. Parents can set a good example. Natural sugar such as in fresh fruits or vegetables is harmless, but sugar that comes from the refinery is not a natural part of life - it is by then a pure chemical and acts accordingly, breaking down in the mouth to acids which attack the enamel of teeth and start the decay process.

Children's teeth should be brushed from an early age and the habit firmly established. Self-brushing should be encouraged, but supervision is needed for many years.

Children should be introduced to the dentist at about the age of two and a half years, and then return every six months. Fear of dentistry is readily avoided and early detection of trouble makes correction easy. Children with complex problems should be treated by a pedodontist or children's dental specialist.

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