The field of pediatric dentistry is constantly evolving. When working with kids, comfort, efficiency, safety and conservative treatments are the name of the game. Of course, this holds true for adults too but starting children off on the right foot with dental visits and making the experience stress-free for both patients and parents is especially important. At Innovative Pediatric Dentistry, we invest in proven, modern equipment and materials to make appointments safer, speedier, more effective and more enjoyable. Our Naperville pediatric dentists stay up to date on the latest and greatest in technology and our practice is known for its advanced approach to care (and our fun, friendly office too!). So, what is the future of pediatric dentistry shaping up to be? Here are a few pediatric dental advancements we’re most excited about:
1. Early Cavity Detection With Amazing Diagnostic and Imaging Tools
Baby teeth are important! They pave the way for the permanent teeth to come in properly and help with chewing, as well as facial and speech development. Plus, a healthy, beautiful smile gives kiddos confidence. That’s why it’s important to address tooth decay in primary teeth. However, doing extensive dental work on children isn’t ideal. Catching decay early on is so beneficial. It means treatment will be easier, faster, more affordable and less invasive. The baby tooth can be preserved and fall out on its own, keeping a child’s oral development on track. In some cases, we can even avoid restorative treatment altogether and see emerging decay so early it can be reversed with preventative care.
Because of this, new diagnostic tools that rely on transillumination to identify decay are among our favorite pediatric dental advancements. Transillumination is a big, fancy term that means we shine a light through the teeth to see what’s going on inside and between them. The light doesn’t emit any radiation. It makes enamel look transparent and cracks and decay appear dark. When transillumination is used in conjunction with x-rays, the dentist doesn’t miss a thing. In the past, if an area of concern was spotted, dentists had to take more x-rays to get a clearer picture, exposing kids to additional radiation. Now, we don’t need to do that and healthy teeth aren’t misdiagnosed.
As we discussed in our last blog post, we use DEXIS CariVu™ at Innovative Pediatric Dentistry. The handheld device uses safe, near-infrared light to detect decay, even in areas that don’t always show up on x-rays. It only takes a minute and is comfortable. For children that come in for their regular exams, cavities are diagnosed extremely early with technology like CariVu, keeping little teeth healthy.
2. Painless Injection Systems and Techniques
Another of the major pediatric dentistry advancements are painless injections. When a child does need treatment, the shot tends to elicit the most fear. It’s not fun and it makes kids dread visiting the dentist. Thankfully, there are painless oral injection systems and techniques that can be used to improve patient experience. We rely on these tools and methods to reduce the amount of anesthesia needed, eliminate some of the “pinch” that’s felt and ease dental anxiety in kids. Painless injections allow us to complete procedures more quickly and with better patient compliance.
For kids that have a true dental phobia, are very young and need multiple treatments or those with special health care needs, another option for safe, effective treatment is sedation dentistry. Nitrous oxide and even general anesthesia, have made their way into pediatric dentistry. Our knowledgeable, expert team uses the newest monitoring equipment, making the process safe. Patients feel nothing and, often times, don’t remember the appointment. We can get everything done in one visit. We even have a board-certified anesthesiologist on staff who visits the office with his team for specialty cases requiring general anesthesia. We always discuss the risks versus benefits with parents, so they’re informed. For some families, it’s the right choice and a welcome advancement in pediatric dentistry.
3. Kid-Sized Dentistry
One of the recent and future trends in pediatric dentistry is the child-sizing of dental technology. For years, adult tools were used on children and it can still be an issue when bringing kids to general dentists instead of a pediatric office. One great example of the efforts to adjust medicine and dentistry for kids is the Image Gently Campaign. It advocates using the most high-tech, fastest image receptors for x-rays, performing x-rays only when necessary and not as a matter of routine, decreasing exposure time for children and using protection like thyroid collars. We follow the guidelines closely and use pedo sensors, which are small, kid-sized digital sensors that go in the child’s mouth instead of bitewings. They make things way more comfortable and are extremely fast. We combine them with the NOMAD Pro 2™ handheld x-ray machine, which decreases exposure time and emits dramatically less radiation than conventional, film x-ray machines. The process is completed twice as fast as it is with regular x-rays and the images are crisp and clear.
When cone-beam CT radiographs are necessary, our i-CAT™ system gives us the most precise, outstanding three-dimensional images. It exposes kids to the least amount of radiation possible and eliminates the need for retakes.
Other new products in pediatric dentistry further help with kid-sizing treatment. Things like DryShield have small mouthpieces and biteblocks that come in different sizes designed to fit children. Tools used for exams are smaller and created just for little patients. All of this helps us give the best care to children and makes the experience comfortable.
4. New Materials in Pediatric Dentistry
New materials in pediatric dentistry are revolutionizing how we care for primary teeth from durable, tooth-colored fillings to safer dressings for pulpotomies (procedures that involve removing the soft tissue, or pulp, inside of the tooth when it gets infected and placing a dressing, or medication, in the chamber). Restorations are now not just more aesthetic, but also biocompatible and free of mercury and metal. When doing fillings, we bond the tooth-colored resin directly to the tooth, which restores most of its strength and lets it stay in place and function as normal until its time for it to fall out. If the pulp of a primary tooth becomes infected, newer medications can be equally as effective as the older chemical treatments but have a better safety profile.
5. A Shift Towards Prevention
We have so much more dental knowledge than we did in the past, as well as access to improved materials and techniques. This has made a shift towards preventative care one of the most notable recent trends in pediatric dentistry. It’s not that dentists wanted to treat patients more aggressively 50 years ago but they didn’t have the tools and science we have today. Our Naperville pediatric dentists always advocate for a minimally invasive approach to keep as much of the tooth intact as possible. With things like fluoride varnish, dental sealants, CariVu™, dental space maintainers, habit-breaking appliances and digital x-rays, we can either prevent dental issues altogether or intervene before restorative treatment is necessary. We’ve really been able to dramatically reduce the number of procedures aimed at repairing damage and instead focus on prevention at our office. With regular visits and good oral hygiene, kids have fewer cavities and problems and a better overall experience.
These are just some of the pediatric dental advancements we’re excited about and there are many more on the horizon. The team at Innovative Pediatric Dentistry is committed to staying on the leading edge of our field because we want our patients to have the healthiest smiles around and we want to ensure getting there is a breeze for everyone involved. Want to learn more about how we can use technology and modern materials to offer your child amazing care? Schedule a visit with our Naperville pediatric dentists online or by calling us at (630) 848-PEDO today!