You may wonder what the difference between a pediatric dentist and a general dentist is. It is a common question from parents. More critically, parents want to know if there is an advantage to taking their children to a pediatric dentist, compared to a general dentist, of whom they may already be a patient.
What Is A Pediatric Dentist?
Essentially, pediatric dentists are experts that are specially trained in the oral health of children of all ages, up to adulthood. They are highly trained and skilled dental professionals. Pediatric dentistry emphasizes and encourages preventive care for children, from infancy onwards. Preventive care starts with babies as soon as their first tooth arrives, and continues up until adulthood, with a constant focus on overall oral health.
For treating tooth decay and tooth caries, as well as monitoring and managing concerns related to a child’s growth and development, pediatric dentists have unique qualifications to help ensure optimal pediatric dental care.
Difference Between a Pediatric Dentist and a General Dentist
Although general dentists do have skills and training required for many of your child’s dental care needs, a pediatric specialist is trained on and has expertise in child behavior and a child’s dental care.
If a child has a serious oral concern or dental issue, or one related to age and early dental development, or if the child has special needs, a pediatric dentist is strongly recommended, and may be needed. For pediatric dental care and concerns, a pediatric specialist is best.
The same principle works in reverse to an extent, as well. Although pediatric dentists have also undergone general training and are competent to treat an adult, this is outside of their area of strength. They focus on their specialty of child-related care and treatment, not services wanted by adults, like denture repair, and may not accept adult patients.
Many general dentists do treat children, which is fine in many cases, but a general dentist does not specialize in dentistry for children like a pediatric dentist does, which is the essential difference between general and pediatric dentists. Pediatric dentistry is a specialty, just like orthodontics, with required additional education; pediatric dentistry is one of the Canadian Dental Association’s nine dental specialties.
Pediatric Dentists Specialize In Children's Teeth
Pediatric dentistry requires specialized training to address the unique oral healthcare needs of children, during this critical period when their mouths, faces, and skulls are developing and growing.
Pediatric dentists provide unique dental care services, including care for baby teeth and a stronger emphasis on preventive dental care. All services are also performed in a child-friendly manner. They are uniquely qualified for treating children with special needs and very nervous children. They are even qualified to diagnose disease-related oral conditions, including ones associated with a congenital heart defect, diabetes, hay fever, asthma, and ADD.
They provide fluoride treatments, perform oral hygiene cleaning, consult on nutrition and care, and more, all with a focus on the child’s overall oral health. They can also do oral health exams on babies and assess for risks of cavities.
Early orthodontic assessment and treatment to fix misalignment and bite problems can also be performed, as well as providing treatment for tooth cavities. Pediatric dentists are qualified to provide anesthesia and sedation and treat a medically-compromised child. They also can assess whether your child’s teeth or jaw bone are developing properly, referring to a children’s orthodontist as necessary to prevent bigger issues from developing.
They can provide help with thumb sucking and pacifier overuse concerns, to help prevent later issues with permanent teeth, and other concerns that impact children or are best addressed at an earlier age, like shark teeth, tongue thrusting, or fluorosis.
Dental School and Education Differences
In Canada, both general and pediatric dentists must have a bachelor’s degree with at least four years of dental school. Dental school graduates must complete an examination and obtain certification from the National Dental Examining Board of Canada in order to practice.
Afterward, dental school graduates can choose to immediately start their residency or practice right away or go on to train further for a specialty. Those looking to specialize as pediatric dentists must take another two to three years of education, and receive a specialty designation from their Provincial Dental Regulatory Authority.
Part of the training pediatric dentistry programs provides include child psychology and behavior to reduce fear and make going to the dentist a positive experience, as well as how to successfully manage a wide range of personalities and age or developmental levels. They are trained in how to guide children about taking care of their teeth in an age-appropriate way.
General dentists use standard dental equipment, but since pediatric dentists work with children of all ages, they have child-friendly, smaller tools for children of all ages, including infants. These are much more comfortable for a child’s mouth.
Beyond the equipment, a pediatric dental office itself is designed for children. Pediatric dental offices create a fun atmosphere with games and distractions.
Advantages Of A Pediatric Dentist
Pediatric dentists offer the advantage of having a specialist diagnose and treat your child’s teeth.
Although a general dentist will obviously be committed to providing the best oral care for your child, pediatric dentists chose this field because they love children, which helps create a positive relationship between the dentist and your child.
They have the specialized training for the optimal care of a child’s dental and oral needs as they grow and develop, as well as the specialized equipment that general dentists do not.
A pediatric dentist has experience helping children of all ages and temperaments, to make them comfortable and reduce fear, speaking in an age-appropriate language they can understand. A pediatric dentist is also especially suited for treating those with special needs. The offices and staff are child friendly, to reduce anxiety and keep children happy. All staff is trained to work with children and parents, to educate, answer questions, and guide.
At Hamilton Mountain Dental Clinic, we are a dentistry clinic that believes everyone deserves a fun experience at the dentist’s. Our goal is to provide a friendly environment for all patients – of any age. We emphasize taking time to know our patients to understand their specific needs, and providing preventive care and education, for healthy smiles for a lifetime.