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As a dental practitioner practicing in Delhi for several years, I am often asked this question. Unfortunately, child dentistry or pedodontics is still something people are not very familiar with in our country. Although over recent years there has been a huge surge of young children and adolescents with dental problems.
There are various reasons for this, most important among them is the lack of regular dental checkups for children. Sadly, most kids visit the dentist for the first time only when they have dental pain or swelling in their gums. In some instances, they come if their parents feel they have crooked or crowded teeth and want to enquire about braces.
Also, rampant dental decay has become common due to a change in dietary habits. We now eat much more processed food with a high sugar content as compared to our previous generations. Sugary snacks and chocolates have become much more common from a very young age.
This has led to a lot of cavities and other problems in children. Also, various habits like thumb sucking, pacifier use, and prolonged bottle feeds can severely damage developing teeth and jaws. If not assessed and stopped at the right time, it can lead to severe malocclusions like crowding, spacing, high arch palate, etc.
To avoid the above problems, firstly it is of utmost importance to take children for regular dental checkups from an early age. Ideally, once they get their first milk tooth they should visit the dentist. There are various advantages of this including:
1. The fear of going to the dentist or a clinic is overcome by the child. They get used to going for a regular checkup and hence are much more cooperative while getting the treatment done at a later stage.
2. It also avoids small dental problems from aggravating, since all the teeth and the soft tissues are thoroughly examined by the dentist. So, any small cavity or decay or swelling can be treated at the earliest.
3. This also allows the dentist to assess children with a higher tendency to develop cavities and start them on a preventive regimen like fluoride therapy, pit, and fissure sealants, etc.
Hence, it is very important to have a good pedodontist to attend to your child’s oral health from an early age just like a paediatrician attends to their general health.
Generally, a good empathetic dentist who has been treating children is a good option. Also, someone who believes in conserving or saving milk teeth is important. Also, of utmost importance is someone gentle and can handle children, coz half the battle is won if the child is happy and cooperative.
4. Also, a pedodontist or a dentist treating children often can put the child on preventive therapy from an early age. This has various aspects like starting from counselling the parents or the primary caregiver on the child’s dietary modifications. This plays a very important role in preventing early or childhood caries.
a) Limiting sugar intake in any form like chocolates, candy, ice creams, or even sugar in milk. Sugar and its various derivatives are the main culprits that cause tooth decay and cavities.
b) Also putting the child on yearly or semi-annual fluoride therapy can greatly help in the long run to prevent dental caries. This is highly indicated for those prone to rampant or extensive decay.
c) There are also several treatment modalities like pit and fissure sealants, fluoridated varnishes which are very beneficial if undertaken at the right time.
Hence, it is very important to find a good paediatric dentist for your child from an early age. Someone with whom both the child and the parents are comfortable. This helps in building a mutually beneficial and synergistic relationship in the long run.