The term "Pediatric Dentistry" refers to a specialty of the profession of dentistry.
A general or family dentist is one that has completed 4 years of dental school and possibly a residency in general dentistry afterwards. A pediatric dentist has the same 4 years of dental school but then receives further training by completing a 2-3 year residency in pediatric dentistry. During residency, the candidate receives specialized training in the management of dental needs of children of all ages; both well children, and those that are medically compromised.
Throughout the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, you will find only about eighty pediatric dental residency programs. Each program takes anywhere from 1 to 10 residents each year. Securing a place in a pediatric dental residency after graduation from dental school can be difficult as there is intense competition to get into these programs.
Once admitted, the pediatric dental resident will spend many hours in academic study as well as hands-on clinical training. The pediatric dental residency programs teach students about child psychology and clinical management of children. Training also includes child-related pharmacology, radiology, how to care for patients with special needs, conscious sedation, general anesthesia, and the management of oral/facial trauma. The completion of a pediatric dental residency results in a certificate of training in pediatric dentistry.
How this training helps your child...
The pediatric dentist is an optimal choice for children of all ages. A pediatric dentist is comfortable and experienced in the phases of a child's oral development and their transition from baby teeth to permanent teeth. Preventative care or regular dental check-ups from a pediatric dentist are geared toward the individualized needs of young patients. The pediatric dental office itself can also put a child at ease while visiting the dentist. Everything from the size of the dental chairs and instruments, to the pictures on the wall are often designed with a child in mind.
If a child does need treatment for dental decay or even for preventative treatment such as sealants, a pediatric dentist is well trained in treating the child during what can sometimes be a difficult experience for them. Due to their additional training, pediatric dentists have the ability to offer sedation in the office and general anesthesia in a hospital setting for very young children, those with extensive dental needs, or those who need extra help relaxing during their restorative appointments.
Because of the additional training, practice, skills and knowledge of developmental mouths, pediatric dentists are the most optimal choice for any child's dental needs.