Pediatric Dentist Job Description
Pediatric dentists provide oral care and treatment for children from infancy through their teenage years. These dentists love working with kids and know exactly how to put them at ease in what is often a stressful situation. Compassion and patience are just as important as clinical aptitude in this specialty discipline.
Some pediatric dentists work solo, while others practice with a group of dental professionals. They can work in a single dedicated office or travel to offices across a distributed network. Pediatric dentists enjoy some flexibility. They’re often their own boss and can set their own hours. They can also choose between full-time and part-time work.
Pediatric Dentist Duties and Responsibilities
Pediatric dentists provide comprehensive oral care for patients aged about 12 months to 18 years old. Oral examinations are an important part of the job, but duties extend beyond exams and often beyond the exam room itself. Those responsibilities include:
Evaluate and Treat Pediatric Dental Patients
Performing oral examinations and corrective care for children is the pediatric dentist’s core responsibility. This includes everything from dental exams and repairing cavities to diagnosing oral conditions and injuries and developing treatment plans.
Dental Health Education
Because pediatric dentists work primarily with new teeth, they teach children hygiene habits that will last a lifetime and maintain their dental health. Pediatric dentists offer children and their parents instruction on cleaning and flossing teeth, provide dietary counseling, and organize educational services for their communities.
Manage Behavioral Issues
Dental phobias are common in children, but pediatric dentists are trained to handle anxious patients with a variety of tactics. Some common strategies include adopting a kind and encouraging demeanor, clearly and calmly explaining each step of the exam or otherwise engaging with patients and, if necessary, sedation.
Healthcare is a changeable industry, dentistry included. Continuing education programs keep pediatric dentists up-to-date as technological advancements and research breakthroughs drive the industry forward. A career-long pursuit of knowledge also helps dentists master new skills, refine old ones, and guarantee their patients receive the highest standard of treatment and preventive care. Most states require dentists earn continuing education credits to maintain professional licensure.
Owning apractice means you’re also running a business. That means hiring and managing associates and staff, establishing and sticking to a budget, and making sure the office is furnished with everything from waiting room chairs to medical equipment. Since pediatric dentists work exclusively with children, this entails decorating their practice in a way that’s appealing and comforting to kids. You can’t run a business without clients, so dentists must also strategize how to grow their patient base.
Pediatric Dentist Skills and Qualifications
Pediatric patients present some unique challenges. Fondness for children is a must, not to mention extensive patience and a warm, personable bedside manner. After completing a bachelor’s degree and dental school, specialty training is required to practice pediatric dentistry.The American Board of Pediatric Dentistry also offers additional (and optional) certification. Once fully trained, pediatric dentists have the following skills:
- Interpersonal skills – patience, adaptability, and compassion are critical to explaining complex medical topics toyoung patients and listening to their concerns
- Strong ethics –pediatric dentists must adhere to government regulations, such as those stipulated under HIPAA and OSHA, as well as any policies set forth by their practice
- Manual dexterity– smaller patients and smaller tools mean pediatric dentists need excellent hand-eye coordination to safely treat their patients
- Teaching – pediatric dentists instruct children and their parents on the best practices of oral hygiene, in addition to mentoring students and associates
- Critical thinking – good judgment and perception are necessary to accurately evaluate patients and devise treatment plans
- Administering medicine – anesthetics and sedatives must be used properly and with great care to ensure patient safety and comfort
Tools of the Trade
Although there are slight design and style modifications to meet the needs of their patients, pediatric dentists use many of the same tools as general dentists:
- Pediatric dental instruments (mirrors, probes, scalers, and retractors)
- Dental hand pieces (drills, burrs, lasers, and other tools)
- Dental syringes (especially those with a cover or sleeve to hide the needle)
- Molds (soft-framed impression trays for creating crowns, caps, and mouth guards)
- Practice management software (Curve Dental, RxNT, Denticon, or similar applications)
Pediatric Dentist Education and Training
Pediatric dentists dedicate about a decade to general and specialty training. The journey starts with a bachelor’s degree, usually in a biological or physical science. After passing the Dental Admissions Test, students must earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree from an accredited dental school, another four-year commitment. As one of nine dental specialties, pediatric dentistry requires a two to four-year residency. These postgraduate programs apply general dentistry to pediatric patients, with special focus on child orthodontics, infant oral healthcare, and even child psychology.
After earning their doctorate, pediatric dentists must pass the National Board Dental Examination for general dental licensing. Each state also has its own licensure process, and some even require pediatric dentists obtain additional licensing to practice pediatric dentistry specifically. Pediatric dentists can also pursue certification through the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry, but this is voluntary.
Pediatric Dentist Salary and Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dentists earn a median annual salary of $159,770, or about $77 an hour. Payscale, however, reports that pediatric dentists earn a median annual salary of $180,000, with compensation ranging from $146,000 to $289,000. In addition to standard benefits like health insurance and vacation time, pediatric dentists can receive discipline-specific perks like malpractice insurance, continuing education funds, and reimbursement of membership dues to professional organizations.
Job growth for dentists currently outpaces most other occupations, with the BLS forecasting a 19 percent demand increase from 2016 to 2026. It’s expected that demand will only rise as studies continue making links between oral health and overall wellbeing.
Now that you know what it takes to be a pediatric dentist, you can use these resources to dig a little deeper:
American Dental Association – a leading advocate for scientific advancement in dentistry, not to mention the world’s oldest and largest organization for professional dentists, the ADA is a go-to resource for prospective and practicing dentists of all specialties
The Complete Pre-Dental Guide to Modern Dentistry – undergraduate students considering dentistry have a lot of questions. This comprehensive guide, which dedicates an entire chapter to pediatrics, answers them all
American Board of Pediatric Dentistry – the ABPD strives to inspire every dental practitioner to provide children with the highest standard of care, and it’s the only ADA-recognized board for specialty certification in pediatric dentistry
Handbook of Pediatric Dentistry – published by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, this must-have resource is recommended reading for dentists pursuing pediatric specialty certification
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