“What’s the difference if I take my child to my family dentist vs. a pediatric dentist?”

One of the most frequently asked questions we as a pediatric dentists come across is: What is the difference between a pediatric dentist and general/family dentist?  

The differences outlined below in no way undermine the abilities of either professional but are intended to serve points to consider when choosing an oral healthcare professional for your child.   

Myth #1:

Pediatric Dentists are specialists only for young children who are especially uncooperative or anxious and who need extensive treatment.

  Pediatric Dentists are indeed experts in providing care for all children from infancy until teenage years with specialized training in young children and children with special healthcare needs. We ask parents to consider taking all minors including teenagers to a pediatric dentist for the same reason they take their children to a pediatrician. Your child’s dentist must be able to provide all aspects of care from a complete examination and cleaning to all types of treatment.  It may initially seem convenient for you and your child be treated by the same person, however, it is important to keep in mind that there are important differences.

  The majority of dental school graduates complete training with a large part of their education focused on adults. Pediatric dentists complete an average of two to three years of intense training after dental school.  Training, especially that which has been completed as part of a children’s hospital, allows specialists to gain expertise in treating children across all social, medical, and behavioral backgrounds. In addition, pediatric dentists work closely with a variety of health care professionals- pediatricians, ENTs, lactation consultants, oral surgeons, orthodontists, speech pathologists, etc.

Pediatric dentists are also experts in evaluating pediatric oral pathology- tongue ties, natal teeth, etc.  They are able to do a thorough oral evaluation to rule out any abnormalities in both hard and soft oral tissue. Furthermore, pediatric dentists undergo vigorous training in nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”), oral sedation, and general anesthesia, which can be provided as additional services to their patients.  

  Pediatric dentists use their strong background in child psychology and growth & development to guide their patients from a young age with continued care through adolescence to provide the best possible foundation.  Each age group requires a specific customized approach and guidelines across a variety of topics from dental decay prevention, sealants, trauma management (i.e. mouth guards), early orthodontics, and habit cessation (i.e. smoking/substance abuse prevention in adolescents).  

Myth #2:

Working on baby teeth is basically working on smaller adult teeth.

  Treating primary or baby teeth goes beyond the “drill and fill” concept.  Treatment plans created by the pediatric dentist incorporate thorough knowledge of the patient’s medical history, behavior, and specifics on growth & development of primary teeth/oral structures.  Treatment is centered around concepts of behavior management and safety.  In addition, the pediatric dentist must communicate this effectively to the parent and to the child in an age-appropriate manner, respectively. Pediatric dentists limit their practice to the treatment of minors, which allows them to consistently increase their efficiency and skills.  They have to complete work in an efficient and safe manner, and at the same time be able to communicate to children in a gentle way. The majority of pediatric dentists continue to maintain their certifications in Pediatric Advanced Life Support, which is imperative, as treatment is focused on working in a small mouth and keeping the airway protected. This relies on expert knowledge of the physiological differences between children and adults.     

Myth #3:

There is no difference between a Board Certified Pediatric Dentist and one who is not Board Certified.

  The Board Certified Pediatric Dentist must excel at the ability to diagnose, treatment plan, and communicate those findings after taking into account all aspects of the patient.  In order for a pediatric dentist to be board certified, they must voluntarily complete additional training and complete competitive examinations.  Board Certified Pediatric Dentists must continue to maintain their certifications with additional continuing education training in the latest dental treatment, technology,  and materials.

Dr. Kapoor prides herself on being to offer her patients and their families expert care.  Her practice has been setup to to take into account minors of all backgrounds with each treatment room/setup being compatible with wheelchairs, restorative/preventive materials that are BPA-Free and free of most common allergens such as gluten, using the latest digital x-rays in pediatric sizes, nitrous oxide in each room.  She continues to pursue additional training in the latest research and technology such as laser dentistry to best serve her patients.  In addition, she is an important resource to pre-dental students and medical colleagues who enjoy her passion for integrating oral health care with the medical field. Check out www.hobokensmilespecialists.com and learn more about Dr. Kapoor and her specialty practice.