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

You may have heard of pediatric and family dentists before, but have you ever considered what differentiates them from one another? In this blog from Cardinal Family Dentistry, we’re discussing the educational and specialization differences between the two. Read on to find out what dental services you can expect from pediatric dentists vs family dentists.

Educational Differences

Family dentists are essentially general dentists who treat patients at any age. Family dentists only need to complete four years of dental school and earn state licenses to be a certified general dentist who treats both children and adults. 

Comparatively, pediatric dentists are specialists, just like endodontists and periodontists. A pediatric dentist has all of the same education and certifications as general dentists, plus an additional 2 years in a residency program. 

They must complete an additional 2 years of schooling and pass written and oral exams to earn their certification as pediatric dentists. A pediatric residency program focuses on treating, managing, and helping children feel comfortable. It combines child development, sedation, psychology, and routine and surgical dental procedures concerning children.

Pediatric Dentists: Specialization in Dentistry for Children

Because pediatric dentists specialize in dentistry for children, they are better equipped to treat dental issues that are unique to little ones. A child’s deciduous teeth are structurally very different from permanent teeth and they require close monitoring, knowledge of a child’s anatomy, as well as the ability to calm a child and ensure they will be cooperative. 

A pediatric dentist can perform procedures that a family dentist may not, such as correcting tongue ties and cleft palates, installing space maintainers in prematurely lost baby teeth, and monitoring the growth of the jaw and alignment of the teeth with knowledge of how it can impact long term oral health. 

Habits unique to children, such as thumb sucking or pacifier use that continues for too long can cause long-term oral health problems, and a pediatric dentist can help you wean your child off of these behaviors.

Family Dentists: Dental Treatment at Any Age

Family dentists perform all of the preventive and restorative dental treatments that a general dentist does, but with the added convenience of personalized treatment for the whole family. A family dentist can perform regular cleanings and exams as well as apply dental sealants to your child’s first and second molars as soon as they appear.

Other services include fluoride treatments, orthodontic screenings, and periodontal treatment. The great thing about a family dentist is that it can relieve dental anxiety in children when they see you getting treatment from the same dentist. 

Family dentists are also better able to identify hereditary oral health problems. When the parents of a child present with tooth decay and gum disease, the dentist can monitor the child’s oral health for early detection and prevention.

Which One is Right for My Child?

This depends on your family situation, budget, and oral health needs. While pediatric dentists receive additional education and training to specialize in dentistry for kids, they are also more expensive because of this specialization.

Family dentists cater to both children and adults which makes arranging for regular dental cleanings and checkups much easier and more convenient. You can also count on a family dentist to squeeze you in for dental emergencies. Back-to-back or even simultaneous appointments for multiple family members are possible.

Pediatric dental offices cater specifically to children so these are great environments for children with dental anxiety. The theme of the office will be child-friendly, they may offer special child-friendly entertainment such as TV shows or games, and they are expertly trained in child development and psychology.

Book Your Next Appointment at Cardinal Family Dentistry

At Cardinal Family Dentistry, we offer preventative, restorative, cosmetic, and emergency dental treatments for patients of all ages. Contact us today to schedule your next appointment with Dr. Sarah S. Barker and get expert treatment for the whole family.

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