A pediatric dentist is a dentist who specializes in the oral health care needs of children from infancy through young adulthood. After 4 years of dental school as a general dentist, we complete 2 additional years of training in pediatric dentistry. We are trained to treat young children and those who may have medical complications. We’re also highly trained in sedation, and we receive a specific license in order to treat children under sedation.
Pediatric Dentists vs. General Dentists
Pediatric dentists have additional training in patient behavior guidance, additional options or approaches to examine and treat children in ways that make them comfortable, and care of the medically and developmentally compromised patient. This additional training is necessary for the safety and comfort of young patients.
Aside from day to day patient care, pediatric dentists also have additional training in supervision and evaluation of facial skeletal growth and development, early cavity prevention, and sedations for children. When practicing pediatric dentistry, doctors deal with different issues, stages, and growth than general dentists do. It is important for them to be highly educated about both baby teeth and adult teeth, the transition from baby teeth to adult teeth, overall development and growth spurts, and other factors that general dentists don’t typically encounter in their regular practice.
General dentists are those who serve a wide range of dental services for their clients. Often serving as family dentists, general dentists will often be the guide for most families when it comes to referring children to a pediatric dentist or to an orthodontist.
These dentists complete 4 years of schooling after they earn their bachelor’s. This schooling also includes clinical rotations where doctors receive hands on experience grooming them for patient care.
What is a Board Certified Pediatric Dentist?
A board certified pediatric dentist has gone through further training with the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. A board certified pediatric dentist is a specialist that has trained and performed at a superior level, demonstrating an exceptional knowledge and expertise at a standard not possessed by other dentists and their pediatric dentist peers.
Dr. Nanna studied at the University of Illinois-Chicago to become a board-certified pediatric dentist. She did this once completing her dental education at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. Her training focused on the service of dental needs of children of all ages, from infant though young adult, and also is trained to help those with physical and mental disabilities.
Pediatric Dentist vs Orthodontist
In addition to standard dental school, orthodontists complete an additional three years of specialty training and also complete a state-specific licensing process. While pediatric dentistry and orthodontics are two very different specialties, there is some crossover because most orthodontic patients tend to be younger in age. Orthodontists are also trained to track and project oral development and growth through childhood and adulthood. Some orthodontists actually specialize in pediatric orthodontics because of the residencies or additional training they have completed, but orthodontics is a branch of dentistry that is less defined by patient age than other branches of medicine. Your child’s pediatric dentist will be able to refer you to orthodontists in your area who are experienced and qualified to work with your child’s specific needs and age group.
Can Pediatric Dentists Treat Adults?
Thought pediatric dentists have completed the necessary training and studies to treat adult patients most pediatric dentists, including Dr. Nanna, choose to focus on treating children.
This is because pediatric dental offices are simply different from most general dentistry practices. Children have different factors that make them feel comfortable, welcome and at ease. Adults have their own reservations and jitters, however addressing them is a little different than children.
In addition, tools and equipment for a pediatric office are specifically designed for a child’s mouth. At a general dentist’s office, they will have inventory that will be sized for a normal adult.
When it comes to financing, some insurance companies do not cover visits to the pediatric dentist once the patient is an adult. This quite often is the point where patients realize that they must transition to a general dentist.
Pediatric dentists intentionally completed additional training in order to be qualified to work with children, which is another reason many of them choose not to see adult patients. Some doctors make exceptions, especially for patients who have recently turned 18 and are still looking for a general dentist to transition to. At Polka Dot Pediatric Dentistry we see children until the age of 18 or 19. If you are in this situation, talk to your pediatric dentist to learn more about your options!