Pediatric Dentist vs General or Family Dentists — Many families are unaware that a difference exists. The American Dental Association defines pediatric dentistry as “an age-defined specialty that provides both primary and comprehensive preventive and therapeutic oral health care for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special health care needs.” General dentists and pediatric dentists both attend dental school but pediatric dentists go on to a pediatric residency where they receive an additional 2 to 3 years of training specific to caring for the oral health needs of children. If a general or family dentist are treating children, ethically they should be providing the same level of care as a pediatric dentist.
Caring for the oral health of a child presents unique challenges that a pediatric dentist encounters on a daily basis. Pediatric dentists are authorities on the development and management of primary dentition as well as the growth of the jaws as what they have been studying at dental school. Children are not just small versions of adults. Their hearts beat faster and they breathe faster and they should be monitored differently.
Children process medications differently than adults and dentists must be aware of what doses of local anesthetic or sedatives are safe for a child of a given weight. Pediatric dentists have these safety measures ingrained in their minds due to their extra training. As residents they are required to go through rotations in pediatric dentistry and emergency medicine, general anesthesia and sedation, pediatric hematology/oncology, and serve on craniofacial, cleft left and palate and other special healthcare needs teams.
These rotations are foundational and set on a path of how to learn and how to be safe. Aside from their anatomical and physiological differences children see the world differently than adults and modify their behaviors accordingly. They take courses at a dental school in child development and child psychology and are trained to be in tune with these differences.
They specialize in safely and comfortably introducing children into a dental home through the use of both non-pharmacological and pharmacological behavior management.
Our greater Sacramento region has no shortage of the best pediatric dentist or family dentist. Find one that has a philosophy of care that is consistent with your family’s values. Online reviews can be helpful but trusted recommendations from family and friends or a pediatrician should carry more weight.
A kid-friendly environment with toys and games is helpful but to ensure that your child is receiving the best care possible make sure your child’s dentist is residency trained. Unfortunately, this can be confusing as there are kid dental offices that employ general dentists with no specialty training to treat their patients.
A good rule of thumb is to find a pediatric dental office that has the same pediatric dentist or who consistently cares for your children. Be wary of offices where you see a different dentist for every visit as this will lead to poor continuity of care.
Lastly, board certification is the highest designation in pediatric dentistry. Though it is not required, a pediatric dentist who is board certified has gone through rigorous oral and written examinations and is more likely up to date on current literature and treatment modalities.
You can also find the right pediatric dentist for your child through our huge list under the dentist category.
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