As a pediatric dentist, we know there are certain things unique to our craft. For starters, we deal with a very distinct group of patients who have unique needs. Much like a pediatrician, a pediatric dentist has to make sure that when we treat our patients, we do so in an expedient manner so they do not have to suffer any discomfort for any length of time. This is especially true for dental patients, who understand that dental pain can be some of the most acute and do not want their children to suffer for a moment longer than they have to. To treat things like dental infections, which could cause dental suffering, we have come up with creative and holistic measures that allow us to run the gamut of treatment options before going to something more extreme. Antibiotics, for example, are one of the surest ways to treat an infection. Discovered when Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928, he gave the medical community one of the most powerful and well-known tools against any kind of bacterial infection. This was an exciting discovery for dentistry and pediatric dentistry because the vast majority of dental infections are caused by bacteria.
The instinct for many patients’ parents is to want antibiotics immediately, which is something we strongly discourage. For many years, doctors, dentists, and others in the medical community looked at antibiotics as a miracle drug, which they prescribed endlessly. This slightly reckless approach to the use of antibiotics has led to an alarming increase in the number of microorganisms that are supposed to be controlled by the medication, but are resistant to the drugs. Even the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry has expressed concern at the frequency with which these are appearing. Our outlook is simple: when we can avoid prescribing antibiotics by using other means, we will do so. However, when we do need to prescribe them, as a pediatric dentist, we will do so in a targeted manner that is at once limited and highly effective. In other words, taking a more holistic approach to the idea of curing your child versus simply doing what is easy.
For a pediatric dentist, it would be easier to just give in and give your child a course of antibiotics, but easy isn’t always the best route. We understand perfectly well how antibiotics are the wonder drug. When you have an infection, you might have a fever, pain, or swelling at the site of the infection. Once the course of antibiotics starts working, it is almost an instant recovery. Patients, and hence parents, want to go to this cure immediately, but while there is no arguing with the results, we want to point out that it is actually not the antibiotics that defeat the invading infection. The medication is designed to restore balance, and once this happens, your child’s body quickly rebounds and overcomes this infection. In the process, the body’s immune system is able to learn about this particular infection for future battles.