Pediatric dentists, also called pedodontists, specialize in diagnosing and treating dental problems in infants, children, and teens. They focus on the unique dental problems that can develop in the gums, teeth, and jaw as the body develops and grows. Pediatric dentistry is one of the dental specializations recognized by the American Dental Association. While all dentists must attend four years of dental school, additional education is required for specializations; to become pediatric dentists, dentists must complete two additional years of training with a dental residency that focuses on working with infants, children, and teens.
Pediatric dentists specialize in the oral health of young people, from infancy to adolescence. While children are welcome to see family dentists or general dentists, some parents prefer to take their children to a pediatric dentist when they want more specialized care. This can be useful when people are specifically looking for a dentist who can offer gentle care, perhaps for children with disabilities or special needs, and who can also provide patient education and help set the foundation for excellent oral and dental health. Pediatric dentists perform all of the routine check-ups and treatments that children need to maintain good oral health.
While pediatric dentists' skills and experience are geared toward infants and children, older teens benefit greatly from continuity of care. When your pediatrician suggests that your child undergo a dental exam, you can be sure that a pediatric dentist will provide the best care possible. A regular or family dentist may have some brochures to hand out, but a pediatric dentist will likely have several strategies up their sleeves that they will be happy to share with you, such as tips for cleaning your baby's teeth with dental floss. Pediatric dentists generally have more patience and a better sense of humor than the average professional, and it's all meant to make the office a fun place for children to receive care.
A pediatric dentist can also identify cases where orthodontic or surgical work is necessary or advisable. The exam ensures that your child's teeth and gums develop normally and gives the dentist an opportunity to treat any warning signs as they appear. Pediatric dentists don't x-ray baby teeth unless they suspect tooth decay or need to examine the root of a baby tooth. If your pediatric dentist finds any developmental problems, your child may need more than one x-ray per year.
Most pediatric dentists stop seeing a child once they turn 18, to make sure their teeth are fully developed before finding a general dentist. All dental students take one or two courses that cover the basics of pediatric dentistry as part of regular training, allowing them to perform basic dental care for children. Pediatric dentists provide comprehensive oral health care designed to meet the needs of growing children and adolescents. If you are interested in establishing care with a pediatric dentist, you can request an appointment online.