Is becoming a pediatric dentist right for me?

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What do pediatric dentists do?

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How to become a Pediatric Dentist

Becoming a pediatric dentist requires a significant amount of education and training. Here is a general outline of the steps involved:

  • Earn a Bachelor's Degree: Start by completing a four-year undergraduate program. Although specific majors are not required, it is advisable to take pre-dental coursework in subjects such as biology, chemistry, physics, and anatomy to meet dental school prerequisites.
  • Take the Dental Admission Test (DAT): Prepare for and take the DAT, a standardized exam that assesses your academic and scientific knowledge, perceptual ability, and reading comprehension. High scores on the DAT are important for admission to dental school.
  • Attend Dental School: Enroll in and complete a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Dental school typically takes four years to complete and includes a combination of classroom instruction, laboratory work, and clinical training.
  • Obtain Licensure: After graduating from dental school, you must obtain a license to practice dentistry in the state where you intend to work. Licensing requirements may vary by state but typically involve passing the National Board Dental Examination and a clinical licensing examination.
  • Pursue Specialization in Pediatric Dentistry: To become a pediatric dentist, you must complete an additional two to three years of postgraduate education in a pediatric dentistry residency program accredited by CODA. During the residency, you will receive specialized training in providing dental care to infants, children, and adolescents.
  • Optional Board Certification: While not mandatory, board certification in pediatric dentistry can enhance your professional credentials (see below).

Pediatric dentists have the option to pursue board certification through the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry (ABPD). While certification is voluntary, it demonstrates a pediatric dentist's commitment to maintaining high standards of knowledge and expertise in the field. The certification process involves the following steps:

  • Eligibility: To be eligible for board certification, a pediatric dentist must have completed an accredited pediatric dentistry residency program and hold a valid dental license in the state where they practice.
  • Written Examination: Candidates must pass a comprehensive written examination administered by the ABPD. This exam assesses their knowledge in various areas of pediatric dentistry, including oral health, growth and development, behavior management, clinical procedures, and dental care for patients with special needs.
  • Oral Clinical Examination: After successfully completing the written examination, candidates proceed to the oral clinical examination. This examination evaluates their clinical skills and decision-making abilities through case presentations, discussions, and demonstrations of various pediatric dental procedures.
  • Case Presentation and Evaluation: Candidates are required to submit a portfolio of cases they have treated, showcasing their clinical competence and expertise in pediatric dentistry. These cases are evaluated by the ABPD to assess the quality of care provided and the candidate's ability to diagnose, treat, and manage pediatric dental conditions.

Upon successfully completing the certification process, pediatric dentists are granted board certification by the ABPD. The certification is valid for a specific period and may require periodic renewal through continuing education and professional development activities.