What is Pediatric Dentistry?

Pediatric Dentistry: A Recognized Dental Specialty

Pediatric dentistry is one of the nine recognized dental specialties of the American Dental Association. Pediatric dentists complete two to three years of additional specialized training (after the required four years of dental school) to prepare them for treating a wide variety of children’s dental problems. They are also trained and qualified to care for patients with medical, physical or mental disabilities. By the time they start practicing they are experienced with the unique range of conditions that children bring to the dental office and they are equipped with more tools and ways to approach the apprehensive patient. Pediatric dentists look at a child oral health care needs not only as an emergent fix of a toothache annual or bi annual cleaning, they help plan the child’s growth and development as needed with other specialties to prevent costly and un necessary treatments in the future.

What is a Board Certified Pediatric Dentist?

A pediatric dentist who has completed a graduate program accredited by CODA (Commission on Dental Accreditation) in the specialty of pediatric dentistry. A dentist who graduates from a specialty program becomes a pediatric dentist and is eligible to become board certified through the voluntary examination process of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry (ABPD). Involvement in the certification process is a demonstration of the pediatric dentist’s pursuit of continued proficiency and excellence.

The certification process involves a written Qualifying Examination and an Oral Clinical Examination covering all areas of information on which a pediatric dentist should be knowledgeable. Certification is awarded for a time-limited period and they must renew annually to maintain their board certified status.

Through this accomplishment, a pediatric dentist has earned the title of Diplomate of the American Board Pediatric Dentistry. Current Diplomates of The American Board of Pediatric Dentistry can be found on our Diplomate Roster.

Identifying a Diplomate of the ABPD

The ABPD is the only certifying board in the specialty of pediatric dentistry recognized by the American Dental Association and sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Pediatric dentists certified as a Diplomate by the ABPD may promote their certification by using Diplomate, American Board of Pediatric Dentistry or Certified, American Board of Pediatric Dentistry in direct association with their names.

What is the Dental Home?

Just For Grins Pediatric Dentistry endorses The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s definition of the Dental Home.

The features of the Dental Home are:

  • an ongoing relationship between the doctor and the patient,
  • inclusion of all aspects of oral health care,
  • delivery of care in a comprehensive, continually accessible , coordinated, and family-centered way, (including EMERGENCIES), and
  • referral to other specialists, when appropriate.

Special Health Care Needs.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recognizes that providing both primary and comprehensive preventive and therapeutic oral health care to individuals with special health care needs (SHCN) is an integral part of the specialty of pediatric dentistry. The AAPD values the unique qualities of each person and the need to ensure maximal health attainment
for all, regardless of developmental disability or other special health care needs.

The AAPD defines special health care needs as “any physical, developmental, mental, sensory, behavioral, cognitive, or emotional impairment or limiting condition that requires medical management, health care intervention, and/or use of specialized services or programs. The condition may be congenital, developmental, or acquired through disease, trauma, or environmental cause and may impose limitations in performing daily self-maintenance activities or substantial limitations in a major life activity. Health care for individuals with special needs requires specialized knowledge acquired by additional training, as well as increased awareness and attention, adaptation, and accommodative measures beyond what are considered routine.”

Individuals with SHCN may be at an increased risk for oral diseases throughout their lifetime.2,4-6 Oral diseases can have a direct and devastating impact on the health and quality of life of those with certain systemic health problems or conditions. Patients with compromised immunity (eg, leukemia or other malignancies, human immunodeficiency virus) or cardiac conditions associated with endocarditis may be especially vulnerable to the effects of oral diseases.7 Patients with mental, developmental, or physical disabilities who do not have the ability to understand, assume responsibility for, or cooperate with preventive oral health practices are susceptible as well.8 Oral health is an inseparable part of general health and well-being.

SHCN also includes disorders or conditions which manifest only in the orofacial complex (eg, amelogenesis imperfecta, dentinogenesis imperfecta, cleft lip/palate, oral cancer). While these patients may not exhibit the same physical or communicative limitations of other patients with SHCN, their needs are unique, impact their overall health, and require oral health care of a specialized nature.

The Pediatric Patient

Pediatric dentistry is the specialty of dentistry that focuses on the oral health of young people.

After completing a four-year dental school curriculum, two to three additional years of rigorous training are required to become a pediatric dentist. This specialized program of study and hands-on experience prepares pediatric dentists to meet the needs of infants, children and adolescents, including persons with special health care needs.

We are concerned about your child’s total health care. Good oral health is an important part of total health. Establishing us as your child’s Dental Home provides us the opportunity to implement preventive dental health habits that keep a child free from dental/oral disease. We focus on prevention, early detection and treatment of dental diseases, and keep current on the latest advances in dentistry for children.

Pleasant visits to the dental office promote the establishment of trust and confidence in your child that will last a lifetime. Our goal, along with our staff, is to help all children feel good about visiting the dentist and teach them how to care for their teeth. From our special office designs to our communication style, our main concern is what is best for your child.

Preventing Tooth decay

Four things are necessary for cavities to form:

  1. a tooth;
  2. bacteria;
  3. sugars or other carbohydrates; and
  4. time.

We can share with you how to make teeth strong, keep bacteria from organizing into harmful colonies, develop healthy eating habits, and understand the role that time plays. Remember dental de- cay is an infection of the tooth. Visiting us early can help avoid unnecessary cavities and dental treatment.

The pediatric dental community is continually doing research to develop new techniques for preventing dental decay and other forms of oral disease. Studies show that children with poor oral health have decreased school performance, poor social relationships and less success later in life.

Children experiencing pain from decayed teeth are distracted and unable to concentrate on schoolwork.

Importance of primary Teeth (Baby Teeth)

It is very important that primary teeth are kept in place until they are lost naturally. These teeth serve a number of critical functions.

Primary teeth:

  • Maintain good nutrition by permitting your child to chew properly.
  • Are involved in speech development.
  • Help the permanent teeth by saving space for them.
  • A healthy smile can help children feel good about the way they look to others.

Infants and children

Getting an early start in regular dental care is an important step on the road to teaching your child healthy lifetime habits. We want to share with you the latest available methods for keeping your child healthy and safe.

The first dental visit should occur shortly after the first tooth erupts and no later than the child’s first birthday. Beginning tooth and mouth examinations early may lead to detection of early stages of tooth decay that can be easily treated.

At the first visit we will present:

  • A program of preventive home care including brushing, flossing, diet and the importance of fluorides.
  • A caries risk assessment.
  • Information about Early Childhood Caries, which may be due to inappropriate nursing habits or inappropriate use of sippy cups.
  • The latest facts about finger, thumb and pacifier habits.
  • What you need to know about preventing injuries to the mouth and teeth.
  • Information on growth and development.


Adolescents have special needs. Appearance and self-image are very important to them. Decayed or poorly positioned teeth or jaws might make them more self-conscious.

Teens also eat frequently, and unhealthy snack foods tend to become a major part of their regular diet. We provide a professional, sensitive and caring approach to restoring and guiding teeth, and teaching preventive dental health care through the teen’s high school years.

When necessary, we will provide information on sealants, oral piercing, wisdom teeth, missing teeth and tobacco use.

Young people with special needs

An integral part of our education is concerned with the medical and dental health of the special patient. People with significant medical, physical, or mental disabilities often present challenges to dentists. Our training allows us to address their special needs and provide the best care possible.

Team approach to Total health

Good oral health is an important part of total health. When helping children, we often work with pediatricians, other physicians and dental specialists. All young people are served best through this team approach.

We, the pediatric dentists, are an important part of your child’s health team.

Medically Necessary Care

  • Medically necessary care (MNC) is the reasonable and essential diagnostic, preventive, and treatment services (including supplies, appliances, and devices) and follow-up care as determined by qualified health care providers in treating any condition, disease, injury, or congenital or developmental mal-formation.
  • MNC includes all supportive health care services that, in the judgment of the attending dentist, are necessary for the provision of optimal quality therapeutic and preventive oral care.
  • These services include, but are not limited to, sedation, general anesthesia, and utilization of surgical facilities.
  • MNC must take into account the patient’s age, developmental status, and psychosocial well-being, in addition to the setting appropriate to meet the needs of the patient and family.
  • Dental care is medically necessary to prevent and eliminate orofacial disease, infection, and pain, to restore the form and function of the dentition, and to correct facial disfiguration or dysfunction.

American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) is the recognized authority on children’s oral health. As advocates for children’s oral health, the AAPD promotes evidence-based policies and clinical guidelines; educates and informs policymakers, parents and guardians, and other health care professionals; fosters research; and provides continuing professional education for pediatric dentists and general dentists who treat children. Founded in 1947, the AAPD is a not-for-profit professional membership association representing the specialty of pediatric dentistry. Its 9,300 members provide primary care and comprehensive dental specialty treatments for infants, children, adolescents and individuals with special health care needs.


More from the AAPD here.

The American Board of Pediatric Dentistry


Every pediatric dentist is inspired to provide high quality oral health care to all children and maximize patient outcomes through continuous participation in the certification process.

Core Values

Excellence in Pediatric Oral Health Care

ABPD values the provision of the highest quality oral health care for children. Such care is thoughtful, careful, ethical and based on the current scientific evidence. It takes into account the best interest of the patient and is respectful of the patient and his/her family.

A Fair and Valid Examination

ABPD values a fair and valid testing process for board certification and renewal of certification in Pediatric Dentistry. Such a testing process is based on the current knowledge in professional and educational testing. The process is evaluated continuously to insure that it is of the highest quality and accurately assesses the candidate’s knowledge, skill and judgment. A fair and valid examination requires skilled, committed and adequately trained examiners

A Commitment to Lifelong Learning

ABPD values a health professional’s commitment to lifelong learning. ABPD values candidates’ and Diplomates’ desire to practice pediatric dentistry at the highest level and their commitment to constantly reevaluate their practices in light of the most recent scientific evidence. ABPD recognizes the value of renewal of certification and continuing education for health professionals.

Quality Improvement in Health Care

ABPD values quality improvement in health care through objective assessment of outcomes and process. It supports efforts to provide optimal health care to children.

More from the ABPD here.