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Pediatric Dentistry Careers: Job Options and Education Requirements

Pediatric dentistry requires a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the degree and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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To be a dentist it is necessary to have a bachelor's degree and then graduate from dental school with either a Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.D.M.) or Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.). To specialize as a pediatric dentist, it is necessary to complete a two-year residency in pediatric dentistry after graduating from dental school. Upon graduation, one may work in private practice, teach in a dental school or conduct research.

Essential Information

Pediatric dentistry addresses the dental needs of children and young adults under the age of 21. A career in pediatric dentistry requires completion of dental school, as well as specialized postgraduate education. Licensure is required in all 50 states. Pediatric dentists can work in a variety of settings, including private practices, clinics, educational institutions and research facilities.

Education Dental school; postgraduate degree
Other Requirements Licensure in all 50 states; voluntary certification
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 18% increase (all dentists)
Median Salary (2015)* $152,700 annually (all dentists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Pediatric Dentistry Job Options

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the majority of pediatric dentists own their own private practices. Others work in partnerships or for comprehensive health organizations.

Pediatric dentists also might find work with a dental school. They might teach and supervise clinical rotations of students enrolled in pediatric dentistry programs, in addition to performing work for students to observe. Pediatric dentists who are employed by colleges or universities also might conduct research activities and share their findings with the professional community.

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Pediatric Dentistry Education Requirements

Aspiring pediatric dentists must first earn a bachelor's degree and then graduate from a dental school that's been accredited by the ADA. Dental schools typically don't require candidates to hold an undergraduate degree in a specific major; however, applicants will need to complete any required pre-dental coursework, including classes in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, English, mathematics, physics and behavioral or social sciences. They also must take the Dental Admissions Test.

Most dental school programs last four years, resulting in either a Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.D.M.) or Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.). Dentists who want to specialize in pediatrics must further complete a 24-month postgraduate residency program, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. These programs, which typically result in a certificate or master's degree in pediatric dentistry, generally include courses in child development and child psychology. Specialized training also might cover anesthesia, child oral trauma, child orthodontics, dental caries, oral medicine, infant oral health and sedation. The largest percentage of a pediatric dentistry resident's time is spent in a clinical environment, observing and performing work with actual young patients.

Licensure and Certification Information for Pediatric Dentists

Dentists must be licensed in all 50 states. General dentistry licensure requirements typically include graduation from an ADA-accredited school and passage of written and practical exams. To earn licensure in pediatric dentistry, applicants also must complete a 2-year postgraduate residency program and, oftentimes, a state-level specialty examination.

Additionally, pediatric dentists can seek Diplomate status through the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. This voluntary certification process involves passing both qualifying and clinical exams.

Salary and Employment Outlook for Pediatric Dentists

According to projections put forth by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of dentists is expected to increase 18% between 2014 and 2024, largely due to the increasing dental care demands of the baby-boom population. While the BLS does not list separate statistics for pediatric dentistry specifically, it does report that dentists in general earned an annual median salary of $152,700 in 2015. However, PayScale.com reported in January 2016 that pediatric dentists earn an annual median salary of $169,220 based on 129 individuals reporting.

Pediatric dentists may work in clinics, private practice, schools, or research facilities. In addition to postsecondary studies required of all dentists, they must be licensed and complete a residency in pediatric dentistry. This prepares them to work with patients under the age of 21.

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