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What's the difference between family dentists and pediatric dentists?

Updated: Jun 3

Ever wonder what the difference is between family dentists and pediatric dentists? We break down what pediatric dentistry is, why it matters for your child’s oral health care, and how it can benefit you and your children.

What is Pediatric Dentistry?

Simply put, pediatric dentistry is dental care for growing kids from around age 1 through their teenage years. Pediatric dentists are dentists who are specially trained to understand the unique needs of children and their developing mouth, teeth, and gums.

Pediatric dentists have 2-3 years additional training than family or general dentists and learn to use a gentler approach for kids and adolescents, including those with special needs and disabilities. During their training, they practice in different settings, including hospitals, orthodontic care, and severe or emergency care.

Why is this important?

In North Carolina, nearly one in five kindergartners have untreated tooth decay, according to a February 2024 release by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Most tooth decay, or cavities, are preventable. Starting dental care early builds a foundation for your child to learn healthy habits, why healthy teeth and gums matter, and more importantly, how to do it.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends your child sees a dentist as soon as their 1st birthday or when their first tooth arrives. The first few appointments help parents and caregivers know how to care for their child’s new teeth so they can be both coach and cheerleader for their children’s oral health.

As your child grows, pediatric dentists can diagnose and treat diseases in your children. They are also trained to communicate with kids by using positive reinforcement, simple explanations, demonstrations, and using soft and friendly tones.

How do you and your child benefit?

As you know, children are not always patient or able to cooperate during a dental exam. Pediatric dentists are specially trained to help children get comfortable in this situation. Their offices are also set up with specially designed equipment that is arranged and decorated for children.

By visiting a pediatric dentist, you will have assurance your child is receiving the proper screening and treatments designed for their growing bodies to prevent future dental problems. They’ll receive oral health exams every 6 months, teeth cleanings and fluoride treatments, and early treatment for misaligned teeth or corrections for an improper bite.

Pediatric dentists also provide:

  • Cavity removal

  • Repair for dental injuries like fractured, displaced teeth

  • Gum disease management to prevent pediatric periodontal disease

  • Early detection of oral health conditions resulting from diabetes, asthma, hay fever, and ADHD

The Bottom Line

From their first tooth to losing baby teeth to braces, it’s important to take care of your child’s developing teeth. Why? When children get regular dental care from an early age, they can chew food more easily, speak more clearly, and smile with confidence.


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