The time has come for your child to see the dentist. It may even be past time if you’re like many busy parents. Choosing the right type of dentist may have you scratching your head. Some families choose to have children treated by a general dentist while others choose a pediatric dentist who specializes in treating children. So you can make the most informed choice for your children, it is advantageous to learn about each type of dentist and then compare.

General Dentist

A general dentist is like a general practitioner. General dentists can treat people of all ages. Your average general dentist does not have any particular specialty as most attend four years of undergraduate school and then four more years in a dental school. There are two degrees that a general dentist can earn, and these are either a Doctor of Dental Medicine or a Doctor of Dental Surgery.

Many general dentists are also certified by the American Board of General Dentistry. General dentists are qualified to perform procedures such as fillings, crowns, cosmetics, and cleanings among other things. You may think that training or qualifications will differ depending on the general dentist’s location. It does not matter if you are searching for a general dentist in Bethesda MD, or in any other US state. The qualifications for general dentists are the same everywhere.

Pediatric Dentist

Just as a general dentist is equivalent to a general practitioner, a pediatric dentist is equal to a pediatrician. A pediatric dentist will not see patients of all ages as they only treat patients who are toddlers to young adults. Pediatric dentists specialize in children-specific dental issues, and they are also highly trained to take a child-centered approach.

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Pediatric dentists must take the same path of schooling as a general dentist as they must attend undergraduate school and then earn either a Doctor of Dental Medicine or a Doctor of Dental Surgery. Upon completing the educational path of a general dentist, a pediatric dentist attends a pediatric dentistry program which will typically last from two to three years. While attending the program, a pediatric dentist will learn about child psychology, child development, children’s orthodontics, children’s sedation, and other dental issues related to children.

Once the pediatric dentist has completed the program, he or she is then required to pass state exams and fulfill any additional state requirements. Upon passing the necessary exams and fulfilling all state requirements, the pediatric dentist becomes certified and can begin practicing.

Who Should Your Child See?

What dentist you decide for your children will depend on your preferences as well as your children’s needs. If you want a practice where your entire family can be treated, then you will want to see a general dentist. Families who prefer a general dentist are those who may want to schedule everyone in the family to be treated all at once to accommodate busy lifestyles or mitigate transportation issues. Others prefer to have their children treated by a pediatric dentist who can take a more child-centered approach and provide their children with specialized care that relates to children.

If you do decide to have your children treated at a pediatric dentist, understand that the entire family will not be able to receive treatment at that particular practice since pediatric dentists stop treating patients once they reach 22 years of age.

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Remember that your children will have to change dentists once they become too old for a pediatric dentist, which can be problematic if any of your children are Autistic or have other mental or emotional disorders. Those who are living with Autism or other disorders may be very reluctant to change providers. Sometimes it’s best to stick them with a provider who understands their special needs and can provide them care throughout their youth, adolescence, and into their adult lives.

Before you make a choice concerning which type of dentist you will take your children to see, you need to evaluate the needs of your children along with your overall family dynamic. While carefully looking at your family’s dynamics and your children’s needs, you need to also consider your personal preferences for your children. For instance, if you do not drive and must coordinate transportation, it will be beneficial for you to have your entire family treated at one location because you will be able to schedule transportation once and have everyone treated on the same day.

If you prefer your children to see a pediatric dentist because you want them to work with someone highly trained to deal with children-specific issues, then a pediatric dentist will be best. After you take a good look at your family situation and deeply think about your preferences, you will be able to make an informed choice about your children’s dental care.