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Difference Between Pediatric Dentist & General Dentist

Jan 02, 2019

The work that pediatric dentists and general dentists do is similar, but pediatric dentists are specialists who are qualified to work with specific patients and tend to earn a higher salary. Continue reading to learn more about how these careers differ.

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Comparing Pediatric Dentists to General Dentists

Pediatric dentists and general dentists both provide dental care to their patients. While general dentists may see patients of all ages, pediatric dentists are specialists who have taken extra training so that they can provide dental care to children. Pediatric dentists also treat patients with special needs.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)**
Pediatric Dentists Dental school degree $175,326 12% (dentists, all other specialties)
General Dentists Dental school degree $126,028 17%

Sources: *PayScale.com; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Pediatric Dentists vs. General Dentists

Pediatric dentists and general dentists perform many of the same basic duties while providing dental care for patients. They assess the dental health of their patients, determine what type of treatment is needed and carry out that treatment. They may pull teeth or locate cavities, which they fill. While both pediatric dentists and general dentists may teach their patients about dental health care, pediatric dentists provide additional teaching and counseling for their patients' parents. For example, they may help parents deal with weaning children off of pacifiers. They're also trained to identify developmental factors, such as the need for braces, that may require intervention from a specialist.

Pediatric Dentists

After earning a doctoral degree in dentistry, aspiring pediatric dentists must complete a residency in pediatric dentistry and earn a license in both dentistry and pediatric dentistry. They typically work in dental offices or clinics. They are specifically trained in pediatric dentistry and are familiar with the developmental milestones related to children's teeth. Since they work with children, they need to have strong compassion, communication and interpersonal skills so that they can make their child patients feel comfortable and willing to cooperate. It is also helpful for pediatric dentists to have patience, because children may be hard to work with if they are tired or experiencing pain.

Job responsibilities of a pediatric dentist include:

  • Examining patients' teeth and gums
  • Educating parents about child-related dental issues
  • Providing parents with strategies to wean a child from habits affecting their teeth, such as sucking their thumb
  • Supervising dental assistants and other dental health professionals
  • Referring patients to orthodontists and other specialists

General Dentists

General dentists can begin their career after graduating from dental school and earning a license. Those who wish to seek advancement opportunities will need to choose a dental specialty and complete a residency in their specialty. Dentists need to have physical stamina, because they may spend long periods of time standing. They also need good dexterity to reach different area's of a patient's mouth with their instruments to perform delicate tasks, such as stitching gums. Leadership skills are also important, since general dentists are often responsible for overseeing several other dental health professionals, including dental therapists. Most work in dental offices, although some may be employed in doctors' offices or dental clinics.

Job responsibilities of a general dentist include:

  • Examining X-rays of teeth and jaws
  • Extracting teeth
  • Giving patients medication
  • Caring for broken or chipped teeth
  • Showing patients how to care for their teeth
  • Referring patients to specialists

Related Careers

There are a number of other medical careers that involve specializing in the care of children, and those considering becoming pediatric dentists may also want to consider a career as a pediatrician. Aspiring dentists may be interested in specializing and becoming an orthodontist.

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