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Pediatric Dentist/Pedodontist: Education and Career Information

If you’ve ever considered a career in dentistry and love children, you may want to explore becoming a pediatric dentist, or pedodontist. The salary potential for this career is very high, and this can be a challenging, yet rewarding contribution to your goals.

What does a pediatric dentist do?

A pediatric dentist, or a pedodontist specializes in the treatment and oral health care of infants, children, teens and special needs children. They perform oral health exams on infants, which identifies any risks that may have transferred from the mother during childbirth; they also provide education on preventative oral and dental care, which includes cleanings and fluoride treatments. They recommend nutritional tips and diet suggestions.

Pediatric dentists also provide counseling for those children who have developed habits such as thumb sucking and the use of pacifiers. Pediatric dentists also perform standard routine oral care that would occur for adults, such as repair of cavities, diagnosis of different oral conditions, management of gum disease and recommendations for orthodontics. A pedodontist also treats and prevents tooth problems in children, focusing on the correct development of jaw bones, enamel and other areas.

You will find a pediatric dentist in a private practice, group practice, medical facilities or clinics. There are many who also work with the school system to screen children on the premises at different times of the year.

How much does a pediatric dentist earn?

The average salary for a pediatric dentist is about $345,000 per year. Working in community services, the average annual salary will be about $260,000 per year. This is contingent on the facility, area, years of experience and educational background. If the pedodontist has a few specialty degrees, the salary cap is much higher. The outlook for jobs is expected to increase by 16% through 2022.

What skills are needed to become a pediatric dentist?

Skills needed to become a pediatric dentist include:

Critical thinking: A pediatric dentist must use reasoning to identify the root of an issue and come up with a plan of action that will work to the benefit of the patient.

Reading comprehension: It is important to be able to fully comprehend any written material or research that is being used to keep up with industry trends, or in reading records or other important documents that could affect the health of the patient.

Monitoring: It is important that a pediatric dentist be able to monitor the oral health of all their patients. Knowing which areas need additional observation to avoid any potential issues is proactive and demonstrates a high level of proficiency in this role.

Coordination: It is important to be able to coordinate services, procedures and administrative tasks when dealing with patients, staff, and vendors. Being able to coordinate teaching sessions, and maintenance routines is also a large part of the job.

Active listening: Older children and teens should be able to convey what is going on with their oral health. Being able to actively listen to what they are saying and determine a plan of action is key.

Decision making: A good pediatric dentist will be able to make assessments and decisions based on the data gathered and a recommended treatment plan.

Management: It is important to be able to manage a variety of tasks and people at one time to get the job done efficiently and effectively.

Instruction: It is important to be able to properly instruct children, teens and family members on the proper techniques for good oral care, and the right products to use that will enhance good oral hygiene.

Knowing how to effectively communicate with children, teens and parents is essential in this role. Being able to keep them comfortable and in a non-threatening environment based on your demeanor is key in having a successful practice.

Internship Requirements

A two to three year residency in pediatric dentistry is required, followed by board certification.

Educational Requirements

The first step in becoming a dentist is to complete a bachelor’s degree program, which is four years. Although the requirement for dental school does not designate any specific major, choosing to study biology or anatomy, dealing with the body is a good idea. Seeking a school that has a pre-dental program is a very good choice. Studies in English, psychology, and biology are just some of the courses you will take in the undergraduate program.

There are now online dental programs that are available for students who wish to pursue a career in pediatric dentistry. These programs also offer continuing education courses for dentists.

During the last two years of the bachelor’s degree program, students should start considering dental schools. The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is required at least one year prior to applying to dental school. This test consists of four multiple-choice tests. It is administered by The American Dental Association (ADA), and is one of the top criteria for selection into dental programs.

After entering dental school, there are an additional four years to complete. Students are trained in dental anatomy and epidemiology, dental materials, mouth disease diagnosis and pharmacology. Upon completion of the program, students will earn either a Doctor of Dental Surgery, or Doctor of Dental Medicine degree. Coursework for the pediatric dentistry component include child psychology and development, child orthodontics, anesthesia, child oral trauma and dental caries.

Once this degree has been conferred, students must pass both parts of the National Board Dental Examination. This examination consists of both written and clinical tests and must be passed to obtain a license. Overall, the entire process of becoming a pediatric dentist is about ten years from starting the bachelor’s degree.

The two to three year residency program in pediatric dentistry usually results in a certificate or master’s degree in pediatric dentistry. Pediatric dentists usually seek an additional designation offered through the American Board of Pediatrics. This entails taking and passing qualifying and clinical examinations

This is a rewarding career path that is focused on the development and implementation of services that will work to
the benefit of children.

Dentistry Scholarships

ADA Foundation CBCF Louis Stokes Health Scholars Program CDA Foundation
National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Tylenol Future Care Scholarship American Dental Education Association (ADEA)
Academy of Laser Dentistry U.S. Army Health Professions Scholarship Hispanic Dental Association
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