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Pediatric Dentists: Job Duties & Requirements

Learn about the work responsibilities of a pediatric dentist. Find out what education is necessary as well as licensing requirements, salary and employment outlook to determine if this is the right career for you.

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Career Definition for a Pediatric Dentist

Like all dentistry, pediatric dentistry is focused on the diagnosis and treatment of dental problems and the upkeep of patients' dental health; however, pediatric dentists practice solely on children. Pediatric dentists often educate patients and their parents on proper brushing and flossing technique and on dietary choices that improve dental health. Additional regular tasks for pediatric dentists may include inspecting x-rays for tooth decay, giving instructions to dental hygienists and assistants, performing tooth extractions and filling cavities.

Education Bachelor's degree and DDS or DMD degree
Job Skills Knowledge of children's dental needs, interact well with children, work well with hands, analyze problems, and communicate effectively
Mean Salary (2015)* $172,350 (for dentists)
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 18% (for dentists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

All dentists typically hold a high school diploma in addition to a bachelor's degree that includes some pre-dental study and a DDS or DMD degree from a 4-year dental school. According to the American Association of Pediatric Dentists, dental school graduates must receive an additional 2-3 years of education in order to practice pediatric dentistry (www.aapd.org). Pediatric dentists will also generally be required by their state to obtain a license to practice dentistry and may wish to gain additional certification from professional organizations such as the American Dental Association or the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

Skills Required

Pediatric dentists will need to have thorough knowledge of the specific dental needs of children and will also need to be able to interact well with children in order to operate a successful practice. Additionally, pediatric dentists should generally be able to use technologically advanced equipment, work well with their hands, analyze problems, pay close attention to detail, feel comfortable working in close bodily proximity to patients and communicate clearly with both adults and children.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all dentists, including pediatric dentists, are projected to see increased employment opportunities in the near future, with an estimated 18% growth between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS data from May 2015 indicated that earnings for dentists, including pediatric dentists, averaged $172,350 annually (www.bls.gov).

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Alternative Careers

Careers that are similar to a pediatric dentist include:

Dental Hygienist

For individuals interested in dentistry who don't want to spend years in dental school, becoming a dental hygienist could be a good option. Dental hygienists thoroughly clean teeth, administer fluoride treatments, capture x-ray images, demonstrate oral care methods and enter patient data into dental records.

To enter this profession, an associate degree in dental hygiene is usually required. All hygienists must also obtain state licensure, which includes completing an accredited program and passing both practical and written tests. The BLS predicts employment of dental hygienists will increase by 19% during the 2014-2024 decade. In 2015, 200,550 hygienists worked in the U.S and earned an average yearly salary of $72,720, as stated by the BLS.

Dental Assistant

Although some basic dental care tasks may overlap those of a dental hygienist, dental assistants also perform clerical and billing duties. Other responsibilities include cleaning instruments, preparing treatment rooms, helping dentists during procedures, setting up appointments, teaching patients about teeth care and processing billing invoices. Some state may also allow dental assistants to give fluoride treatments and apply sealants.

Educational requirements depend on the employer and state. A postsecondary diploma usually takes one year to complete and is sufficient for many employers. Some dental assistants may gain all their knowledge from on-the-job training. Additionally, some states require certification or licensing of assistants. According to the BLS, job opportunities in this profession should be strong between 2014 and 2024, with growth of 18% during that period. The BLS determined that the average income for dental assistants was $36,920 in 2015.

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