A pediatric dentist specializes in the oral health care of children starting as young as six months old all the way through the teen years. Pediatric dentists generally only see and treat children, although adults can be seen in certain circumstances. Overall, pediatric dentists have more experience in working with children and may make the experience of going to the dentist more enjoyable for them.
What it takes to be a pediatric dentist
Unlike general dentists, pediatric dentists specialize in the field of oral health care in young patients. This specialization requires an additional four years of dental school, passing a two-part exam to receive a license to practice dentistry, and two additional years of residency training before someone is ready to be a pediatric dentist. During their residency pediatric dentists-to-be are immersed in a clinical setting, seeing up to 20 patients in a day, and focus on areas of study such as:
- Child development
- Child psychology
- Surgical procedures for a child
- Dental care for people with special needs
- Conscious sedation and anesthesia for children
These areas of study help the dentist prepare for working with young patients in the future.
What do pediatric dentists do?
Pediatric dentists provide all-inclusive oral health care to their patients. This includes, but is not limited to the following:
- Oral exams for infants, children, and teens
- Preventative dental care treatments such as cleanings
- Treating cavities and other tooth ailments
- Caring for dental injuries such as a knocked-out tooth
- Counseling for habits such as thumb-sucking or using pacifiers
- Assessing and treating improper bites
- Encouraging good oral health habits early
Pediatric dentists have all the skills of a general dentist and have the experience to treat and care for child-specific oral health problems.
What to expect in a pediatric dental office
Pediatric dental offices are designed with children in mind. This means there will likely be toys available to play with, books, bright colors all over the office, dentists with goofy hats or fun accessories, and child-sized dental tools. Many offices go above and beyond to make sure their patients are comfortable and make the whole experience as fun as possible.
Do pediatric dentists see adults?
In general, pediatric dentists do not see adults. However, adults with special needs may be treated by a pediatric dentist in some cases. Patients with special needs may feel more comfortable receiving treatment from a pediatric dentist because they tend to have more experience in dealing with special needs than a general dentist.
Should my child see a pediatric dentist?
Whether or not your child sees a pediatric dentist is a personal decision. For some parents, the idea of having a specialized dentist treat their child gives them peace of mind. You may want to consider a pediatric dentist if:
- Your child has extreme dental anxiety
- Your general dentist does not see young children
- Your child has special needs
The most important thing is that your child is going to regular dental check-ups. If it is more convenient to have a general dentist for all members of your family, seeing a pediatric dentist may not be the right fit for you.
Pediatric dentists specialize in the comprehensive oral health care of infants, children, and teens. Their experience with children can help ease dental anxiety in children and make the process of going to the dentist more enjoyable.
Learn more about pediatric oral health care