This discipline focuses intimately on pediatric/adolescent growth and development, disease causality and prevention, child psychology and management, and all aspects of the highly-specialized Pediatric restorative techniques and modalities. Some Pedodontists also super-specialize in the care of "special needs" patients, such as people with cerebral palsy, mental retardation and autism.
Pediatric dentists require an extra two to three years of post-doctoral dental training after attaining their dental degrees (DDS, DMD). They are then eligible for certification by the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry, should they so desire. Most US states require a Specialty Permit or License in order to limit professional practice to Pedodontics or to represent oneself as a Pediatric Dentist.
Differentiating itself from regular dentistry, pediatric dentistry emphasizes the establishment of trust and confidence in children with their dentists. Consequently, one of the main components of pediatric training is child psychology. This manifests itself in special office designs, different communication styles and an emphasis on teaching preventative dental habits to children in an effort to make dental visits enjoyable.
Pedodontics places special importance in preventing tooth decay. Studies show that poor oral health care in children can lead to impaired school performance and poor social relationships. Therefore, Pediatric Dentists give advice on how to make teeth strong the importance of developing healthy eating habits and other ways to prevent disease from occurring.
Additionally, Pediatric Dentists work toward the maintenance of primary teeth (baby teeth) until they are naturally lost. This is due to the importance they serve in permitting children to chew properly and therefore maintain good nutrition, their role in speech development, and the maintenance of space for the eventual eruption of the permanent teeth.
The role of the Pediatric Dentist changes as children enter adolescence. Recognizing the growing importance of appearance and self-image in their patients, Pedodontists work to ensure that adolescents’ dental needs are met. Preventative dental health care is emphasized and when necessary information is provided to adolescents about subjects such as wisdom teeth tobacco use sealants and oral piercing.
Pedodontics not only aids in the dental health of children but serves as an educational resource for parents. It is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that a dental visit should occur between shortly after the presence of the first tooth in a child and that child’s first birthday. This is because early oral examination aids in the detection of the early stages of tooth decay. Early detection is essential to maintain oral health, modify aberrant habits, and treat as necessary and as simply as possible. Additionally, parents are given a program of preventative home care (brushing/flossing/fluorides), a caries risk assessment, the latest facts on finger thumb and pacifier habits, advice on preventing injuries to the mouth and teeth of their children, diet counseling, and information on growth and development.