Dentistry for Children: Pediatric Dental Assistants Make a Difference
March 31, 2015
•Dental Hygiene/Dental Assistant
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Many adults are uncomfortable with dental visits and may even avoid important dental work because of their anxiety. This phobia often begins at childhood, and dentistry for children is a stressful experience whenever kids don't know what to expect. Although they may not understand the importance of dental examinations and procedures, a caring pediatric dental assistant is essential to helping young patients stay calm and comfortable during their visit — while still delivering the care they need.
Must Love Children
A pediatric dental assistant requires the same education as a dental assistant who works with adults. This professional follows the same course of study, but after certification, he or she begins work with a dentist that specializes in pediatrics and, sometimes, adults with special needs. As you'd expect, a prospective dental assistant who wants to work in dentistry for children needs to have a love for kids and a basic understanding of their development. This will help them to guide kids of all ages through a seemingly scary experience in their lives.
Dental assistants, as described by the American Dental Association (ADA), are responsible for performing X-rays, helping the dentist with procedures like root canals and fillings, taking impressions of teeth and teaching oral hygiene strategies to their patients. While pediatric dental assistants assume these tasks, they work to make them comfortable for little ones in particular. An X-ray can be explained to them as a camera that takes pictures of their teeth and can inspire a game where they must stay as still as they can. Similarly, teaching little ones how to brush and floss should allow for words and phrases they understand, and even letting them practice on a doll or large set of false teeth. They should also know the main offenders to kids' oral health: sleeping with a bottle, gummy snacks and candy, fruit juices and many more.
Not for the Faint of Heart
Assisting in dental procedures for children requires the dental assistant to be quick and precise with the tools the dentist needs at any given time. Children have a shorter attention span than adults and may not be willing to tolerate a delay in their filling. Younger children may be too consumed by fear and anxiety to sit for a procedure at all, necessitating various degrees of sedation. This means a dental assistant needs to be comfortable with the idea of gently restraining a child and working with one who is sedated either fully or partially.
The Future of Pediatric Dental Assisting
The ADA suggests that, by the year 2018, 8.7 million children will gain dental coverage out of provisions in the Affordable Care Act. This means the need for dental assistants who are comfortable working with children will grow and bring with it an improvement in children's oral health across the country.
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