The Practicalities of Pediatric Dentistry

It’s no understatement that pediatric dentistry comes with its own set of unique challenges. Those with specialist training know these trials first-hand, but for those considering branching out into pediatric dentistry, it is worth exploring the challenges in more detail.

Dealing with Different Behaviors

Dental anxieties and fears may be common in people of all ages, but for children, they can have further implications. Research suggests that extreme dental anxieties and phobias affect between 5-20% of all children and adolescents, [i] and these fears can quickly translate into disruptive or uncooperative behavior during sessions, making treatment difficult or even impossible.

Children generally exhibit these behaviors due to difficulties processing what is happening to them.  As a result, strong emotions such as fear and anxiety are present. Because children have not had much experience with managing emotions, they can find it difficult to distinguish uncomfortable situations from actual threatening situations. Also, trying to help children remain calm during procedures can be a challenging hurdle to overcome. 

Nevertheless, it is very important to help alleviate any behavioral issues directly caused by dental anxiety. Otherwise, these fears may cause long-term damage. In fact, sixty-one percent of individuals claimed bad dental experiences as a top reason for their fear of the dentist.[ii] If fears aren’t managed in adolescence, children may develop a negative outlook on dental care. In all, dental anxiety may result in the avoidance of dental care and poor oral health.

Despite these challenges, there are effective ways to help your practice and services become more appealing to children. For example, decorating the office environment and consistently engaging in conversation are a few ways to help children feel at ease. The earlier children begin to visit the dentist, the more dental experiences they will have to help lessen the chance of a traumatic experience. Taking the time to understand pediatric patients and using positive language goes a long way for building trust between dentists and children.[iii]

Treatment Challenges

The different stages of development children go through can be the most challenging aspect of treatment. Children still possess deciduous teeth and their jawbones haven’t fully formed. Although deciduous teeth do fall out, their condition may still have a direct impact on the permanent teeth below. In some cases, endodontic work may be necessary to preserve the quality of the emerging tooth below. Furthermore, as the jawbone is developing, proper planning is essential in all treatments since it can be difficult to predict how procedural changes will affect their aging facial anatomy.

Many pieces of dental technology have not yet been developed to work well with the smaller anatomies of children. Intraoral scanners can be difficult to use on younger patients as they are often too big to acquire a comprehensive digital impression of the oral cavity.

The CS 3600 intraoral scanner is an exception. Benefitting from multiple interchangeable tips to help streamline the way dentists provide care, the scanner has a unique side orientated tip which is perfectly suited to children or those with smaller oral cavities. Patient comfort ensures the best level of care.

Trends in the patient population

Cavities are on the of most common diseases among children in the United States. About one in every five children aged five to eleven years have at least one untreated decayed tooth. One in every seven adolescents from 12 to 19 years old have at least one untreated decayed tooth.[iv] Children with poor oral health are more likely to miss school and receive lower grades that children with better oral health.[v] Luckily, cavities are preventable with proper oral hygiene and treatment.

Every patient population will have its own set of obstacles to overcome, and pediatric dentistry is no different. Helping individuals at an early age to overcome fears in order to receive the best care possible is a worthwhile pursuit.


[i] Gao, X., Hamzah, S., Yiu, C., McGrath, C., King, N. Dental Fear and Anxiety in Children and Adolescents: Qualitative Study Using YouTube. J Med Internet Res. 2013 Feb; 15(2): e29.

[ii] Beaton, L., Freeman, R., Humphris, G. Why Are People Afraid of the Dentist? Observations and Explanations. Med Princ Pract. 2014 Jul; 23(4): 295–301.

[iii] The American Academy of Paediatric Dentistry. Guideline on Behaviour Guidance for the Paediatric Dental Patient. Link: http://www.aapd.org/media/policies_guidelines/g_behavguide.pdf [Last accessed April 8].

[iv] Dye BA, Xianfen L, Beltrán-Aguilar ED. Selected Oral Health Indicators in the United States 2005–2008. NCHS Data Brief, no. 96. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2012.

[v] Jackson SL, Vann WF , Kotch JB, Pahel BT, Lee JY. Impact of poor oral health on children’s school attendance and performance. Am J Public Health 2011;101:1900–6.

Author: Carestream Dental Blog Administrator

Carestream Dental provides industry-leading imaging, CAD/CAM, software and practice management solutions for dental and oral health professionals. With more than 100 years of industry experience, Carestream Dental products are used by seven out of 10 practitioners globally and deliver more precise diagnoses, improved workflows and superior patient care. For more information visit www.carestreamdental.com.