What Type of Children’s Dental Specialist is Right for My Child?

Children's Dental Specialist in Los Angeles, CA

A children’s dental specialist in Los Angeles, CA, is simply a dentist who treats children, right? If only it were so simple! We used to refer to a dentist who specializes in treating children as a “pedodontist,” but today, “pediatric dentist” is the term more commonly used. A pediatric dentist has completed the traditional 4-year doctoral training in dentistry plus a two-year, post-doctoral specialty residency focused on pediatric dentistry. Some pediatric dentists, including Dr. Hila Robbins in Los Angeles, CA, have also completed a post-doctoral fellowship at a children’s hospital and gained additional experience in caring for hospitalized children or outpatients.

Traditionally, pediatric dentists have focused on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of common dental problems, such as tooth decay, dental pain, infection, cleanings, referrals to other specialists, and early orthodontic intervention. Yet, today’s pediatric dentists treat much more than the teeth and gums. Today’s pediatric dentists take a comprehensive, “whole-body” approach to dental health, as it relates to the entire body because of the interrelation and interaction between the health of the teeth, gums, and oral cavity to whole-body health.

Today’s pediatric dentists are also adopting and following practice philosophies and new modes of treatment that go beyond “traditional” care an incorporate research and evidence from other disciplines. Thus, more pediatric dentists are taking a multidisciplinary approach to their practices.

In addition, pediatric dentists may now refer to their practices or be known among colleagues and parents as alternative, holistic, natural, integrative, functional, or biological, to name the most popular “non-traditional” approaches to care. It is important to note that these terms are neither precise nor mutually exclusive. The terms can mean different things to different people, and also, pediatric dentists may combine elements of different practice philosophies or choose different modes of treatment, to adapt to different parental and patient preferences and health situations.

In future blog posts, we will explain “non-traditional” approaches to pediatric dentistry in more detail.

How Pediatric Dentistry Has Grown Over the Years

Pediatric Dentistry in Los Angeles, CA

Although dentistry dates back to 5000 BC, the pediatric field didn’t become a distinct practice until the 1900s. Since the previous century, this specialty has evolved rapidly to reach the current form we know today—and it continues to change as new technologies and practices are developed. When your child visits a dental office for pediatric dentistry in Los Angeles, CA, you’re taking a small part in this evolution.

Roots in Los Angeles

The first-ever pediatric dental specialists worked right here in LA. In the early 1900s, Minnie Evangeline Jordan opened a dental practice just for kids here in our city—a unique concept for its time. Other practices steadily began in California and elsewhere, but it wasn’t until the 1940s that the American Dental Association officially recognized pediatric dentistry as a specialty.

Building a Healthy Foundation

Over time, a multidisciplinary approach to pediatric dentistry became more popular as experts recognized how a child’s oral health impacted their overall health. In the early 2000s, the American Dental Association promoted the concept of comprehensive oral healthcare beginning before children turn one year old. By starting early, dentists ensure healthy development, and families form good habits for scheduling routine appointments. Today, about 87% of American children ages 2-17 visit the dentist at least once a year—more than in any other decade.

Dr. Robbins actually recommends an initial visit by the time that child’s first baby teeth appear and sometimes, even sooner, as in newborns that are experiencing difficulties with breastfeeding.

Today’s Pediatric Practices

Nowadays, it is common for dentist offices to specialize in young patients and create welcoming environments for them. In addition to a more gentle, “child-centric” approach, many of today’s best practices follow integrative pediatric dentistry, aiming to find the underlying causes of dental problems—rather than just treating symptoms. Integrative pediatric dentists consider a broad scope of health and behavioral issues, as well as anatomical and functional issues, that may impact the dental health and the overall well-being of the pediatric patient. Today’s pediatric dentists also take a multidisciplinary approach, collaborating with other dental, medical, and other professionals who specialize in treating infants, toddlers, growing children, adolescents, and teens.