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Pediatric Dentistry vs. General Dentistry

Posted Nov 1st, 2018

Pediatric Dentistry differs from General Dentistry in that it is solely focussed on the special needs of developing mouths – the teeth, gums & overall oral health of babies through teenagers and young adulthood.


Does my child really need specialized care from a Pediatric dentist?

Faced with the question of whether or not their children need a different dentist than they do, many parents will point out that they didn’t receive such specialized care themselves, and their teeth turned out just fine.

But if pressed, most parents will also conclude that there might be a better standard than “just fine” — and getting to “just fine” wasn’t necessarily much fun.

Most of us saw our first dentist when we began school and then perhaps once a year after that.

Pediatric Dentistry vs General Dentistry | Kids R Us


The one-size-fits-all approach to dental care we grew up with isn’t working for children today.

Tooth decay is the number-one preventable childhood disease in this country — and yet, more than half of all Canadian children show signs of inadequate oral and dental hygiene:

  • 57% of Canadian children aged 6-11 have had a cavity, with an average 2.5 teeth affected by decay.
  • Tooth decay rates are increasing among 2-4-year-olds.
  • 1 in 10 children ages 1 to 5 have had hospital treatment for early childhood tooth decay: This is the most common surgical procedure performed on pre-school children in Canadian Orthopedic hospitals. Approximately 19,000 children have dental surgery each year.

So why is tooth decay increasing among Canadian children?

What roadblocks stand in the way of their lifelong dental health? The biggest factors include:

  • Improper feeding habits for infants.
  • Improper diet for toddlers, children, tweens, adolescents and teens.
  • Fewer than half of all the communities in Canada fluoridate their water supplies.
  • Misinformation surrounding the use of preventives such as fluoride and dental sealants; Some dentists will not treat children under 5 or refer them to pediatric specialists.
  • Many parents don’t take their kids to the dentist until they’ve reached school age, even though the Canadian Dental Association recommends that children see a dentist either within 6 months of getting their first tooth or by their first birthday.

Helping your children create and build on great oral and dental care today can radically improve their long-term health and well-being, as well as save them — and you — a lot of discomfort and stress along the way.

Oral pain arising out of early tooth decay and poorly aligned teeth can seriously affect a child’s overall health.

Such effects, experienced in both the short and long terms, can include:

  • Lost and interrupted sleep
  • Poor growth
  • Behavioural and learning problems
  • Issues with communication, socialization and self-esteem

Tooth decay and the problems it can cause can be prevented. Pediatric dentists pursue the extensive education and training needed to counter these potential problems; they are experts in infant oral health, prevention, special needs children’s dentistry, sedation, hospital dentistry and can provide some orthodontic treatment.

For example, some children with special needs are more susceptible to tooth decay, gum disease or oral trauma; others require medication or have dietary needs that can undermine dental health. Still other children have physical difficulty maintaining effective dental habits at home.

Pediatric dentists are trained to address a wide variety of medical dental and oral care challenges, regardless of the physical, developmental, cognitive, sensory, behavioural or emotional needs of their young patients.

The principles of pediatric dentistry — applied both at home and at the clinic — are key to managing children’s oral and dental health.

Pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of the dental world, specializing in the growing smiles of children, from babies to teenagers.

Highly educated, intensively trained and belonging to a well-regulated health care community, they must pass three officially accredited stages in their professional development to become practicing pediatric dentists.

Here are some of the differences between General Dentistry and Pediatric Dentistry:

  1. Like regular dentists, pediatric dentists must complete a 4-year dental degree program at an accredited dental school. After becoming dentists, they must then complete an additional 2 years of specialist studies to become qualified pediatric dentists; there are certified pediatric dentistry programs throughout Canada and the United States. This additional residency training includes dental care for infants, children, adolescents, teens and children with special needs.
  2. Having met these higher educational requirements, dentists (both general and specialist) must be licensed by the governing body (Dental Regulatory Authority, or DRA) of the province or territory they decide to practice in.
  3. Finally, most specialists are required by their provincial or territorial DRA to sit and pass intensive specialist examinations set by the Royal College of Dentists of Canada (RCDC).

These educational and practical requirements ensure that the dental doctors caring for your children are true experts in their field – so you can rest easy today, and at all future stages of your children’s development.


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