What is the Difference Between a General Dentist and a Pediatric Dentist?

Even though pediatric dentists and general dentists both treat dental health conditions, these two types of dentists differ in a variety of ways. General dentists tend to treat and focus solely on adult teeth and adult dental health conditions, meanwhile pediatric dentists usually only treat children’s teeth (also known as baby teeth), mixed dentition (kids with some baby teeth and some adult teeth), and sometimes adults with special needs. Beyond that, children need to be treated differently, spoken to in a manner that they can understand, and they ultimately need to feel comfortable to be cooperative and receive treatment. This requires extra attention, time and sometimes patience that a general dentist might not have been trained for in the same way as a pediatric dentist. Therefore, it’s important to have children treated by health professionals that are trained to specifically care for kids.

Key Differences Between A Pediatric Dentist and a General Dentist

  1. Education and Training

 Pediatric dentists: Need to have four years of undergraduate college education, followed by four years of dental school plus at least two extra years of education focused solely on pediatric dentistry. These two-three extra years are spent studying primary dentition (baby teeth), mixed dentition, child development, behavior, psychology, pharmacology, special needs patient care, and pediatric sedation. There is a huge emphasis on communication techniques, as kids tend to require different language (simpler terms) to understand what’s being done and how to care for their own teeth, as well as a calm and friendly demeanor. Furthermore, pediatric dentists tend to treat patients up to 18 years of age, but they may also treat adults with special needs.

General dentists: Required to have four years of undergraduate college education plus four years of dental school, followed by a one-year (depending on their state) residency. The dentist is not required to go through additional training (beyond dental school and a residency) in order to treat patients.

  1. Orthodontic Pre-Assessment

Pediatric dentists: Usually include orthodontic pre-assessment as part of their examination and may be able to offer minor orthodontic intervention.

General dentists: Almost always refer patients out to an orthodontist for treatment unless the dentist provides clear aligners (please note that not everyone is a candidate).

  1. Office Environment

Pediatric dentists: Tend to have an inviting, fun and playful atmosphere to help kids feel more comforted. Sometimes they offer distractions such as video games, tv’s, and/or books to keep kids minds off of possible anxious emotions.

General dentists: May not necessarily have the most kid-friendly environment, since their patients are adults.

  1. Dental Equipment

Pediatric dentist: Need to have dental materials that fit in little mouths and are small enough to maneuver around baby teeth.

General dentist: May not be stocked with pediatric dental tools, making treatment harder to complete and possibly uncomfortable for the child.

Advanced Children’s Dentistry is a fun and educational pediatric dental practice in Long Island, NY where we provide a comforting and compassionate experience for all kids. Our pediatric dentist Dr. Sybil Padavathil has gone through extensive training in order to provide the best treatment possible for your child. Schedule your child’s pediatric dental appointment at 516-758-KIDS.

A graphic describing the differences between general dentists and pediatric dentists


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