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  • Writer's pictureDr. Peter - Pediatric Dentist in Arlington, Virginia

How to Become a Pediatric Dentist

The road to becoming a pediatric dentist is no easy task. First, one must graduate from undergraduate school, then complete a 4 year accredited dental school education, passing boards and certifications along the way. Afterwards, they must complete a 2-3 year post graduate residency program to be considered a pediatric dentist.

Dr. Peter during his Residency at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh

Every year there are millions of people who are terrified of going to the dentist - usually because of a fear that was established at an early age. For many, the first interaction they had at a dentist was a negative experience. Fortunately, there are pediatric dentists that are highly trained and exceptional at what they do - treating the dental needs of children. Although there are many general dentists who advertise as a kids dentist or a family dentist, the training required to become a pediatric dentist specialist can be a huge difference in how successful an appointment goes and how your children view their dental health.

What is a Pediatric Dentist?

A pediatric dentist is a dental professional who is specialized in treating children. A pediatric dentist is a licensed dental provider who has completed specialized training at either a children's hospital or a university based program. These pediatric dental specialists focus on treating children (usually infants to early teens) in a comfortable, fun, and anxiety-free setting. A pediatric dentist receives special training to understand the development of children from birth to puberty. Some services include:

  • Initial Examination

  • Oral Hygiene and Dietary Counseling

  • Special Needs Dentist

  • X-ray evaluation and Diagnosis

  • Routine check ups, cleanings, and preventative services

  • Examination of the jaws, gum, throat, and other systems related to oral health

  • Diagnosis and treatment of dental cavities, oral disease, or dental injuries due to trauma

  • Evaluation for Orthodontic Needs

In addition to graduating an accredited dental school and passing their dental certification and licensing exams, a pediatric dentist completes a two to three year residency program and becomes a board certified specialist. This is overseen by the CDA (Commission of Dental Accreditation). Pediatric dentists also receive medical training in advanced topics such as anesthesiology, bacterial growth, oral surgery, and advanced life saving techniques.

How Much School is Necessary To Become a Pediatric Dentist?

First - Receive a Bachelor Degree.

Although many dental schools are getting so competitive that Master's degrees are more and more common, at a minimum, one must complete a bachelor degree. The area of focus is generally in science: biological sciences, biology, chemistry, physics, and human anatomy. It's often recommended (though not required) to show proficiency in other elective classes such as child development, psychology, and economics or business. Graduating with good grades won't cut it, most dental schools will also require pediatric dentists to gain additional experience through volunteering, working with children, or clinical research involving child-related illnesses. Many prospective pediatric dentists also choose to work as volunteers (or interns) at dental offices to gain first hand experience.

Second - Graduate from Dental School.

The next step in the journey of a pediatric dentist is to become a licensed dentist (either DMD or DDS) after completing a 4 year dental school education. Usually, during the first two dental students will take highly specialized courses in human anatomy, dental anatomy, biological sciences, and laboratory work. The following two years are generally spent in a clinical setting where students will learn to diagnose and treat adult patients under direct supervision of clinical preceptors. After completing all requirements from the dental school, they will either become a DMD (Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry) or a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery). There is no real difference between the two titles, some schools just use a difference label.

Third - Receive a License

The NBDE (National Board of Dental Examinations) is a board examination that is needed to become a licensed dentist in the US. It is administered through the ADA (American Dental Association) and conducted in two parts.

Part 1 - Written Exam. This tests a dentist on their general knowledge of oral health. This must be passed in order to proceed to part 2.

Part 2 - Clinical exam. This is usually a multi day boards exam where typodont (plastic teeth) and real patients are operated on and judged for clinical perfection.

Different states have specific requirements for which exams they require and how to be licensed and often require continuing education to maintain a dental license.

Fourth - Residency Training

The AAPD (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry) is the official governing body for over 70 official pediatric dentistry residency programs. Most programs are two to three years and allow for very specific training and clinical experience in Pediatric Dentistry. To put it in perspective, most dental schools require 2-3 week rotation through a pediatric clinic to become a dentist. On average, 2-3 patients are seen on those days. A pediatric dental residency is 2-3 years long and on average, 15-20 patients are seen each day.

Areas of specific focus for pediatric dental residency may include:

  • Advanced Diagnostics for with children in focus.

  • Surgical Procedures with a specific focus in child anatomy and airway

  • Child Development

  • Child Psychology

  • Radiology

  • Management of Pediatric Dental and Oral/Facial Emergency and Trauma

  • Special Needs Patients

  • Conscious Sedation and General Anesthesia.

What Is The Benefit of a Pediatric Dentist?

Quality of Care. And from a child's perspective, a pediatric dental office can be an amazing place. Our kid friendly office is designed to include age appropriate amenities to make your visits as comfortable as possible including:

  • Stuffed animals, TV, Sunglasses, Wifi, kids music, and personalized TVs with their favorite movies and shows.

  • Various methods of behavior guidance including sedation options (nitrous) for pain-free and anxiety-free dental visits.

  • Advanced technology and modern materials, including BPA free sealants, and digital imaging for low dose radiation for safety and comfort of our children.

  • Interceptive orthodontist and orthodontic care including age specific and appropriate techniques to correct bite discrepancies, overbite, underbite, crossbite, thumb sucking and space maintenance appliances.

  • Incentives from our amazing prize zone toy dispensers and toys from our reward zone to reinforce positive behavior and make it a truly amazing visit!

We encourage you to join our family at VK Pediatric Dentistry in Arlington, VA. You'll receive more than just dental care - you'll join our family where you can be positive we provide the highest standard of emotional and clinical care possible for your children.

VK Pediatric Dentistry

5001 Lee Hwy, Arlington VA 22207

Schedule An Appointment Today in Arlington, Virginia at VK Pediatric Dentistry

If you haven't taken your child to a pediatric dentist yet or would like to schedule an appointment, Dr. Peter and the highly skilled team at VK Pediatric Dentistry are just a phone call away. Schedule an appointment online or call us today at 703-962-7814. We look forward to providing your children a lifetime of healthy and happy smiles!


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