Pediatric dentists, also known as pedodontists, provide oral health care for children's dental problems. Pedodontists also have training and qualifications to handle patients with medical, physical or mental disabilities.
Children start to get their first teeth at around 6 months of age. Primary dentition is normally complete by about 2.5 years. Between 6 and 7 years of age, kids start to lose these teeth as their permanent teeth erupt. This is an important time period in our lives for our oral health that will affect our future smiles.
Cavities in children are very common and can have a significant impact on future dentition. Many people are under the impression that cavities in primary teeth are no big deal because baby teeth will be lost anyway. However, if the infection is allowed to really develop, it can affect and damage the developing permanent teeth. Also, if the primary teeth are lost or need to be removed before they are naturally replaced, alignment issues will likely occur in the permanent teeth.
Pediatric dentistry is not just about placing sealants and simple fillings. It also involves placing stainless steel crowns, reparing fractured teeth or other oral traumatic injuries, and identifying and treating oral developmental disorders. Pediatric dentists must also learn to treat uncooperative patients and also frequently use sedation for the more difficult cases.
With more and more parents choosing to take their children to pediatric dentists, the field has really grown and so have the incomes of these specialists. The average pediatric dentist makes well over $200,000 per year.
Training to become a pedodontist requires an additional 2 to 3 years of residency following 4 years of dental school. To find a list of US pediatric residency programs, visit the American Academy of Pediatric Dentisry.