What is a Pediatric Dentist?

Most families with young children have considered a pediatrician for health care needs that require age-based specialists, and dentistry is no different. Pediatric dentists fill a vital role in oral medicine; here are some answers to a few questions you may have about them.

What Does a Pediatric Dentist Do?

Pediatric dentists are professionals who have completed a specialized course of dentistry that caters to children who have special needs or otherwise need gentler care. The program consists of two to three years of further training after graduation from dental school. It includes hospital training, where they work with children who have more severe dental needs and emergencies, and training in numerous orthodontic teeth-straightening methods. Pediatric dentists work closely with pediatricians and general dentists, who refer select patients for this specialized dental treatment that requires this advanced training. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) is an organization of pediatric dentists, and its website has a good selection of brochures explaining their role in dentistry.

How Old Are Pediatric Dentists' Patients?

Pediatric dentists can treat children from birth to college. If a child has unique developmental issues or needs to be seen in a hospital setting due to another medical condition, a pediatric dentist is uniquely qualified to provide that treatment. Often, children with special needs that persist into adulthood are still seen past the age of 18; their pediatric dentist knows their dental history, as well as the special treatment and procedures needed before and during treatment.

Why Choose a Pediatric Dentist Instead of a General Dentist?

All general dentists are trained in pediatric dentistry in dental school, and are predominantly taught by pediatric specialists on staff. Some general dentists are more comfortable than others in treating small children, especially if their practice serves many families and they're familiar with common behavioral conditions that need to be addressed during treatment. But it is subjective to the practice; if a general dentist is not comfortable treating a young or special needs child, a referral is in order. You can search for one near you through the AAPD.

What Benefits Do Pediatric Dentists Offer to Children?

Prevention and treatment are the primary focus areas of pediatric dentists, along with educating parents and other dental professionals on how best to treat their children. Pediatric dentists working in dental schools and hospital training facilities also conduct research to develop better methods of preventing oral health problems in children.

Brochures and educational materials are plentiful online to help parents prepare for their child's first visit to the dentist and to inform them about the preventive oral health care products available to them. Take the first step with products such as a My First Colgate™ toothbrush and matching toothpaste. Ultimately, however, a pediatric dentist can be a helpful aid in ensuring a lifetime of healthy smiles for your children. Together, you can work toward this goal.

About the author: Dr. Huot is the founder and CEO of Beachside Dental Consultants Inc. He has lectured at many meetings, and his past articles have been featured in Dental Products Report, Dental Economics, Dental Practice Report, ADA News and state dental journals. Dr. Huot recently retired from the USAF Reserve Dental Corps after 30 years of military duty, and his most recent assignment was as the Commander of the 920th Aeromedical Staging Squadron at Patrick AFB, Florida. A past president of the Maine Dental Association in 1994 and the 2006 president of the Atlantic Coast District Dental Association in Florida, Dr. Huot is a Fellow of the American College of Dentists, the International College of Dentists, the Academy of General Dentistry and the Pierre Fauchard Academy.