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What does paediatric dentistry involve?

Paediatric dentistry is a specialty that deals exclusively with children and young people, some of whom need a little bit more help.
My name is Christine Park and I graduated from the University of Glasgow back in 2006. So at the moment I am a senior clinical university lecturer and an honorary consultant in pediatric dentistry, and so I work between Glasgow Dental Hospital and school and the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow. And what does it involve? It’s very varied, and so I’m split. Between university work and NHS work from the NHSside of things, I treat children under general anesthetic children who might have complex medical histories or children who are really severely phobic of the dentist who can only manage their treatment under general anesthetic or children who need some kind of complex dental work. Tuesdays I’m either doing university work with the.
With the students or working on my own research, or I do some intravenous sedation for anxious adolescents and so for those cases we have an anaesthetist who does sedation for us, which is propofol sedation and then we get on with the dental work and Thursdays is a mixture of admin sorting out all the patient queries NHS admin, sorting out letters and in the afternoon I have a new patient clinic. where children are.
Refered in from all over the West of Scotland in for a consultant opinion, so these are sorts of patients that the general dental practitioner has seen, and I had found something that they can’t manage and they need to refer them on I guess I’ve always been quite good with children and and when I was a student I just assumed that everybody was really good with children. I did a lot of babysitting I taught in Sunday schools I took Brownies so I was very used to being around small children. So when I was at university and you did your pediatric dentisty at university I always really enjoyed it ‘cause I didn’t have any problems chatting to children.
Where I did my vocational training was over in Edinburgh for the schools, finished early on a Friday so my Friday afternoons were always the kids and checkups coming in and I just really enjoyed it and I learned in general practice that the bits that I didn’t really enjoy where selling I didn’t really like selling or up selling things I didn’t really enjoy. Really difficult endodontics on in adult back teeth.
Pediatric dentistry really appealed to me ‘cause it had all the bits I really liked about dentistry in small people who were a bit afraid of the dentist sometimes, or who it was really important that they have a really positive experience and it didn’t have to do really difficult, molar endo or really challenging full dentures You do have to be quite positive about things and be really good at being able to break things down. Into simple steps for people so that involves quite a lot of thinking yourself and to be able to work out how to approach things for small people who have never had this experience before.
But you were trying to convince them that what you’re going to do is going to be absolutely fine and we can manage it and they can get through it and we have to be quite organized. I would say, because especially when you’re dealing with children with complex medical history, is there is a lot of liaison involved. And with other specialties who you do have to be quite organized with that. And you really have to care, a lot about your patients sometimes that’s probably a down fall, ‘cause we probably care too much and we do get upset when we have children who really ill who we know aren’t going to get better.
That can be really challenging, but I think it’s actually a sign of a good dentist if that sort of thing does upset you. And it would also say that children are very good at seeing through you and so you have to be really good if you’re having a bad day, you have to. Be really good with your acting skills to make sure that they don’t know that you’re having a bad day because they will see through it.
If you’re not really convincing After you qualify, you do your usual vocational training and then a CT placement and doing the various specialties, and then you would apply for a specialist pediatric training post and so at the moment you can either do a three year course which just takes you to a specialist or some courses. are five year run through so you do three years to become a specialist and you sit a professional exam at that stage and then the two years at the end of it. Are your consultant training?
Then you have another exam at the end of that, and that gets you qualified to get a consultant post, but you could get a specialist post after three years if that’s what you wanted to do. So probably the biggest challenge is trying to juggle all my different hats, so teaching the students treating my patients, and also doing my own research. And that’s the biggest juggle. And then on top of that, you’re sort of work, life balance, and so I have two small children myself and so that can be really tricky. I’m very fortunate in that my my husband helps a lot with childcare and but otherwise it would be really difficult. It is a real challenge to juggle.
your own training teaching of your students your own work, life balance and sort of mentoring or or in teaching your more junior staff here still doing their training, probably the best advice I’ve ever been given is while you’re trying to hold all these balls in the air, remember that some of them are rubber, and some of them are glass, and it’s OK to occasionally drop the rubber ones ‘cause they will bounce. don’t drop the glass. ones though. My favorite thing is probably doing dentistry for children who may be three or four and haven’t had any dental treatment before.
So for example, I’m a child that age who comes in, and they’ve had trauma and you know, a baby tooth is maybe died. A baby front tooth is maybe died off, so the the times when I can get a 3 year old come to allow me to do a bit of primary incisor. endodontics on a front tooth. That’s probably my. Most rewarding, but I also really enjoy treating anxious kids who’ve never managed to really get in the chair before and then you get them in the chair. It seems like such a small step, but I find that quite rewarding and also.
When you have really complex patients who need a lot of input from a lot of specialties and you work really hard to try and get everything tide together and when that all works and it all happens, and the difference you see in a family after that, that’s probably one of the most rewarding things that I do.

To answer the question set out in the title, here, we’ll look at a specific example, Christine Park, who is a Senior Clinical Lecturer and Honourary Consultant in Paediatric Dentistry.

She treats children and young people under the age of 16. Christine trained for five years in Paediatric Dentistry to become a consultant in the specialty and is currently also studying for her PhD. She works in a dental hospital and in a very busy children’s hospital.

What does paediatric dentistry involve?

Paediatric dentistry is a specialty that deals exclusively with children and young people. Most children and young people are very happily treated in General Dental Practice along with their families and it is this family aspect of General Practice that many dentists enjoy. Some children and young people however need a little bit more help and sometimes those children are referred by their dentist to a specialist service like the one Christine works in.

That might be because they are very anxious and need additional help to accept dental treatment, which might come in the form of cognitive behavioural therapy to allow them to accept treatment normally, or, they may initially require treatment under sedation or general anaesthetic to deal with any immediate issues that are causing pain or infection.

Specialist treatments

Some young people have developmental problems affecting their teeth such as amelogenesis imperfecta where the enamel (the hard coating on the outer surface of the teeth) hasn’t formed properly. Others may have congenitally missing deciduous (baby) or permanent teeth and restoring their smile may require input from a multidisciplinary team that includes paediatric dentists, orthodontists, restorative dentists and sometimes oral surgeons. Some of these treatment plans can extend over years as the child or young person develops so paediatric dentists often know their patients very well.

Paediatric dentists also deal with young people who are medically compromised and some are very seriously unwell with cancer, heart problems or other issues that keep them in hospital or bring them to hospital regularly. For all of these young people it is really important that their mouths are healthy to reduce the risk of infection that may affect their medical condition or treatment so the paediatric dentists have an important role to play in their care. Treating these young people is often complicated and requires careful planing and liaison with their medical team.

You can find out more about a career in paediatric dentistry on the link below:

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Becoming a Dentist

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