General Dentist vs. Pediatric Dentist


When children get sick or need a regular medical checkup, parents usually take them to a pediatrician. But when those children need to see a dentist, many parents take them to their own general dentist, rather than who specializes in the oral health of children. A general dentist can provide adequate dental care for children, but there are several advantages to seeking out a pediatric dentist. Here are some of the main differences between the two:

What is the difference between a general dentist and pediatric dentist?

General dentists will treat patients of all ages, but as suggested in their name, they focus on general dental issues like reducing plaque buildup around teeth, eliminating tooth decay, filling cavities, and promoting healthy gums. If a patient has a more severe problem, they will be referred to a specialist.

Pediatric dentists only treat children, using a combination of particular skills and experience to treat dental issues unique to children and help them feel comfortable and safe in the exam chair. Pediatric dentists use smaller dental equipment and introduce each piece, one at a time, to reduce the fear of the unknown.

What types of treatments do pediatric dentists provide?

Pediatric dentists are skilled at dealing with younger patients, and they are also experienced in treating dental problems unique to children. Preventing tooth decay is a top priority, as children are particularly susceptible. Pediatric dentists offer several treatments including sealants, fluoride treatments, and space maintainers, in addition to promoting good oral health habits. Counseling to break bad habits like thumb sucking and pacifier use is also offered, along with nutritional counseling to help prevent cavities.

Pediatric dentists also provide regular cleanings, repair tooth cavities and dental injuries, offer early assessment and treatment for straightening teeth, and diagnose oral conditions associated with other medical issues like asthma, ADHD, diabetes, and congenital heart defects. Most importantly, pediatric dentists promote good oral health from a young age, offering infant oral health exams once babies start cutting teeth.

What special experience and qualifications does a pediatric dentist have?

All dentists must complete four years of dental school after college, but pediatric dentists are required to complete two to three additional years of residency training for infants, children, and teenagers. The specialized schooling focuses on children’s unique dental needs, plus child development, psychology, and training on how to treat children with special needs including autism, Down syndrome, cleft palate, and many other conditions.

Above all, the extra training provides pediatric dentists with the experience they need to deal with patients who behave very differently than adults. Pediatric dentists know how to talk to children, redirect their attention, and ease their fears. And of course, pediatric dentists are also skilled in the art of wielding dental instruments in a wiggly child’s mouth.

Top quality dental care for children in San Diego

Visiting the dentist can be scary for children—even for adults—but pediatric dentists know just what to say and do to make your child’s dental experience a positive one. At San Diego Dental Specialty Center, Dr. Florian Thompson is experienced in dealing with the dental issues unique to children, and his calming presence will put your child at ease, even if it’s their first visit. To make an appointment with Dr. Thompson, give us a call at (619) 272-6246.