Patient Portal

Schedule an Appt

Schedule An


Pediatric Dentist or General Dentist: What’s Right for Your Child?

Taking a trip to the dentist is stressful for everyone, but when it comes to children, the experience can be even more intimidating. All of the tools, sounds, and unfamiliar faces invading their personal space can make any child dread going to the dentist, unless the environment presents itself as a safe and fun place. That’s why it’s important to choose a dentist that best fits your child’s needs. But how do you know which one is the right choice? Possibly the first decision to make is whether to send your child to a general dentist or pediatric dentist.  Why? What’s the difference? Well, let us explain.


The Differences

Although both pediatric dentists and general dentists have the capacity to provide dental care to children, their difference lies in the amount of training that each is required to complete. Both pediatric and general dentists must obtain a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) after their undergraduate degree. It’s what they do after receiving a DDS or DMD that accounts for the key difference.

In the case of a pediatric dentist, the doctor has elected to pursue a speciality certification in pediatric dentistry, which requires an additional two years of training during their residency. Through this training, pediatric dentists learn specifically how to work with children, understand how to address their needs, make them comfortable, and how to identify and address specific dental issues that children experience. The additional training covers dental health for infants, children, teens, and children with special needs.

General Dentists

Regular or general dentists typically treat adults, and tend to focus on problems more specific to permanent teeth. General dentists diagnose, prevent and treat issues that arise with adult teeth, including overall general health needs. They can also treat children, although they have not undergone additional training to receive a specialization in pediatric dentistry. Some of their common treatments include:

  • Teeth cleanings
  • Root canals
  • Fillings
  • Sealants
  • Crowns and bridges
  • Veneers
  • Gum disease care
  • Dental implants
  • Preventative education on oral health
  • Disease prevention
  • Interpreting X-rays

Pediatric Dentists

Pediatric dentists are specially trained to work with a child’s developing teeth and jaw, child behavior, physical growth and development, and children with special needs. They often treat issues like tooth decay and tooth placement, crowding, crooked teeth, and missing teeth. Since children are more prone to tooth decay, pediatric dentists also help prevent and treat this issue before it has the chance to impact permanent teeth. Some of their typical treatments include:

  • Teeth cleanings
  • Sealants
  • Fluoride
  • Interpreting X-rays
  • Filling cavities
  • Removing teeth
  • Fixing broken teeth
  • Identifying and addressing spacing issues
  • Helping break bad habits

Why Choose a Pediatric Dentist

We know it can be challenging to deal with a child’s anxiety, particularly when it comes to making trips to the dentist. That’s why choosing a pediatric dentist over a general dentist may be the key to making  this necessary task easier. With their specialized training, pediatric dentists are often better equipped to deal with issues specific to children. They likely have more experience addressing and navigating challenges related to children’s oral health, and tend to have offices designed to make a visit to the dentist fun, engaging, and non-threatening. Pediatric dentists also use smaller tools, making it more comfortable for your child to receive care.

Tips to Choose the Right Dentist

  • Schedule a time to visit the office and meet the staff and doctors.  Most dentists, especially pediatric dentists who understand a child’s anxiety and apprehensions, will gladly give you and your child an office tour so you have a chance to see to the environment and meet the doctor(s) prior to choosing a practice.
  • Ask about the doctor’s training and specialty certifications. In addition to the specialized certification for pediatric dentists, all dentists have the option to seek board certification from the board that oversees their particular area of dentistry (general dentistry or pediatric dentistry). To receive board certification, a dentist has to demonstrate their knowledge and expertise beyond that of other dentists in their field.
  • Ask for recommendations. Good dentists (general and pediatric) tend to receive strong word-of-mouth recommendations. Ask your friends and family with children for their recommendations to see which dentists in your area have the strongest reputation.

Here at Behind the Smile, we take pride in providing our patients and their parents with the highest quality care in a compassionate, gentle, and child-friendly environment. Call our office or complete our online form to schedule an appointment, or if you’re still researching, feel free to request an office tour to see what we’re all about.