By: Pamela Sands, D.D.S.

Both the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree that children should have their first dental visit by age one. Both general dentists and pediatric dentists treat young patients. So, what is the difference?

In many ways, general dentists and pediatric dentists can be compared to their counterparts in medicine: family practitioners and pediatricians. The former are generalists who see a variety of patients in all stages of life; the latter specializes in seeing children and teens. Both types of dentists offer some of the same services — for example, exams and professional cleanings and restorative treatments such as fillings.

Where Does the Similarity End?

Pediatric dentistry is one of the nine specialty areas recognized by the ADA. To qualify in this specialty, a candidate must successfully complete two to three years of additional training after the standard four years of dental school, and must be licensed by the state in which they practice. Family dentists have also completed dental school, and are licensed by their state. They are committed to maintaining the oral health of people of all ages; however, they are not certified in treating children specifically.

Aside from their additional training, pediatric dentists offer a practice that is specifically geared toward making children feel safe and comfortable. This may include a waiting room filled with toys and child-size chairs, and a staff that makes an extra effort to ensure that each young patient feels comfortable. The atmosphere in this office lets you know that children are its focus.

The “fear factor” is one reason why even some older children might benefit from seeing a pediatric dentist. A gentle manner and soothing words can go a long way toward easing a child’s dental anxiety—some children may need more attention and extra time. If your child is especially anxious, a pediatric dentist can help them conquer their fears.

Pediatric dentists and their staff are focused on prevention, including finger and pacifier habit counseling, and diet counseling to ensure children have healthy mouths for life. Topical fluoride treatments and dental sealants are other preventative tools that pediatric dentists use to help avoid the formation of dental decay on primary and newly erupted permanent teeth.

Children who have special needs, such as autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, and behavioral or developmental disabilities also benefit from seeing a pediatric dentist. The soothing environment of the office, combined with the experience and training of a pediatric dentist and staff can help ensure a stress-free experience for your child, and parents as well.

Finally, a pediatric dentist can recognize dental bite problems early on and recommend orthodontic treatment at the appropriate time. Early recognition may often lead to interceptive orthodontics or the early removal of primary teeth in order to potentially prevent the need for the extraction of permanent teeth and prolonged orthodontic treatment in the future.

At ProHEALTH Dental, we believe that pediatric dentists are great advocates for life long dental healthcare. It is important that your child enjoys their dental visits so that they do not fear dental care as an adult. A pediatric dentist’s mission is to instill a life-long love for oral healthcare and healthy habits to ensure your child has a beautiful smile to last a lifetime.


Learn more about Dr. Sands, our newest Pediatric Dentist in Howard Beach, here!

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