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  • How to Become a Pediatric Dentist

    Published on December 20, 2022

    Pediatric dentistry. Male dentist giving high five to a young girl after the visit.

    Dentistry has specialized branches dedicated to ensuring optimal oral health by providing niche expertise. Many future dentists in dental school have the opportunity to try out these various areas of concentration.

    Some students may have already set their mind to one specialty, in particular, to dedicate themselves to from then on – by becoming a pediatric dentist.

    Out of all the specialized branches, becoming a pediatric dentist is one of the most popular careers in dentistry. For aspiring pediatric dentists, it means helping children retain a bright, healthy smile for years to come.

    But what does it take to become a pediatric dentist? If you’re interested in becoming one, read on to see what you need to do for it to become a reality!

    Education & Training Requirements

    So, you’ve decided to become a pediatric dentist. The next step toward a career in pediatric dentistry is to understand what you need to learn to become one.

    Here is a rough timeline, or checklist, if you will, of all the educational training requirements you must complete before officially becoming a pediatric dentist:

    Step #1: Complete An Undergraduate College or University Education

    The first step to becoming a pediatric dentist is to earn a bachelor’s degree. Be prepared to do whatever it takes on an undergraduate level to get into dental school. Nowadays, dental schools are increasingly becoming more competitive. Depending on what dental school you apply to, expectations can be as high as needing a Master’s degree. But don’t be spooked by that notion since not all dental schools have the same requirements. Notably, dental schools want you to have an undergraduate degree in science.

    These include areas of focus such as:

    • Biological sciences
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    • Human anatomy

    Naturally, you want to have good grades in your coursework during your four years of study to ensure a high GPA. You can further showcase your academic prowess by taking elective classes like child development, psychology, economics, or business.

    However, grades only go so far. So, it’s also highly recommended to gain relevant experience by volunteering, working with children, or doing clinical research involving child-related illnesses. Even better: by being able to intern or volunteer at a pediatric office for first-hand experience.

    These are just a few ways to better your chances of getting accepted into dental school.

    Step #2: Applying for Dental School

    Once you’ve completed your bachelor’s degree, you can finally apply for dental school. Firstly, you will need to become a licensed dentist before becoming a pediatric dentist.

    Therefore, you need to earn one of three degrees:

    • Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM)
    • Doctor of Medical Dentistry (DMD)
    • Doctor of Dental Surgery

    Completing a dental degree takes four years, with the first two years covering specialized courses in human anatomy, dental anatomy, biological sciences, and laboratory work. Meanwhile, the last two years are spent in a clinical setting. These help students diagnose and treat patients under the direct supervision of clinical preceptors.

    Step #3: Pass the Licensing Exam

    After graduating from dental school, it’s required for any practicing dentist to take a written and practical exam. The written part covers general knowledge of oral health, and you must pass it before taking the practical part. Once you’ve gone ahead into the practical exam, you’re judged for your clinical abilities by having typodont (plastic teeth) and real patients to operate on. Depending on where you live, there are varying requirements for these exams – so it’s important to look up what’s expected in your area. Once you’ve passed, you’re qualified to work as a dentist – but not yet as a pediatric dentist.

    Step #4: Additional Training & License

    At this point, you truly get the specialized training geared toward becoming a pediatric dentist. A pediatric dentist spends two to three more years of education to learn about the oral health of infants, children, and teenagers. During those years, they will cover primary dentition (baby teeth), mixed dentition, child development, behaviour, psychology, pharmacology, special needs patient care, and pediatric sedation. Once you have completed everything, you may need to pass one other licensing exam, specifically to become a pediatric dentist. After you pass, you’re then free to work as a practicing pediatric dentist!

    Children’s oral health is important. It’s why pediatric dentists have an intensive educational background and experience to ensure their smiles remain healthy as they grow older. Hopefully, this gave you all the information you needed to become a pediatric dentist!


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