How Do You Become a Pediatric Dentist?

Pediatric Dentist

Becoming a pediatric dentist is no easy task. Many people may not realize it, but there is a lot of work that goes into cleaning children’s teeth. It takes some extra steps in comparison to general dentists. There is so much more that these pediatric dentists do and have to learn! Pediatric dentists specialize entirely in dental care for babies up until young adults. Dentistry is its own specialized field, and it is not easy to become a dentist. There is even a further specialization that is needed among dentists who wish to become a pediatric dentist. The path of dentistry and pediatric dentistry is quite long and challenging, but in the end, it can be gratifying. 

Just like medical school, dental school is challenging and requires a lot of schooling. If a person knows that they want to be a pediatric dentist soon enough, they will typically begin their path in high school and then continue their education into college. From there, you have to go to dental school as well as a residency program. This is all needed before a person can become a licensed pediatric dentist. If you are interested in becoming a pediatric dentist, or you just want to know the extensive education your pediatric dentist had to receive, then continue on reading. 

What is a pediatric dentist? 

As previously mentioned, pediatric dentists are more than a general dentist. This specialty does, however, adapt techniques and procedures from general dentistry. These specialties are used to provide primary and comprehensive preventive and therapeutic oral health care for children to young adults. Pediatric dentists have to be able to treat a wide range of diseases in babies, children, and adolescents. This includes those with special health care needs. Since pediatric dentists treat a variety of ages, they have to be experts in providing care to make all patients feel comfortable. They also have to be able to educate their patients and their parents about the importance of oral health and preventative health care. 


A lot of education goes into becoming a pediatric dentist as well as getting a license. It is important to set yourself up on the right path, so your journey to your career is smooth. A bachelor’s degree must be obtained first. After a four year degree at a dental school as well as specialist training is needed. The education steps listed below are required in order to become a pediatric dentist.

High School

This is a great time to set a foundation for further educational studies. High school is a long way away from dental school, but some classes are helpful to set people up on a path to dental success. During the four years that people are in high school, it is recommended that students take chemistry, physics, biology, anatomy, and math if they want to study dentistry eventually.


An undergraduate degree is needed in order to be admitted into a dentistry program, but it can vary depending on the school. Specific dental schools each have their own requirements for what classes they require if you are to be admitted into their program. If you are interested in eventually applying to dental school, it would be a good idea to check the requirements of the dental schools you are looking to apply to. Areas in biology are usually safe bets. There is not a specific undergraduate program that needs to be taken, but majoring in a field of science can definitely boost the chances of getting into a dental school. A general focus of studies of any dentist includes biology, physiology, chemistry, physics, and human anatomy. For those who know that they want to work as a pediatric dentist, classes in child development, psychology, and business studies are great. During this time, it would be very beneficial to intern at dental offices to gain first-hand experience of working with children. 

Dental School

Similar to all dentists, pediatric dentists must earn one of two degrees. They can choose between a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM). The two degrees require a minimum of four years of study at a dental school, and they are equivalent to each other. Getting into a dental school is a hard task, as it is incredibly competitive. Dental schools look at GPA’s, recommendations, and scores on the Dental Acceptance Test. Once accepted, future dentists must study in areas like anatomy, anesthesia, and periodontology. During the first two years of the dental program, students have to focus on learning dental sciences and procedures in a lab setting. The following two years consist of the exploration of clinical exercises in groups. During this time, students learn how first to diagnose and then treat adult patients while under licensed dental supervision. After the four years are up, students will become a DDS or DMD. To further become a specialist, additional training is required. 


For dental graduates to officially become licensed, they have to pass the National Board Dental Examinations. This test has two parts, a written exam, and a clinical exam. The written exam tests a future dentist’s general knowledge of oral health. The written exam must be passed before the clinical exam can be taken. The clinical exam is the second part of the licensing process and needs to be completed only after the first exam is passed. Each state has different requirements in order to become licensed, so make sure to check what your state requires. Individual states might require a particular exam that is related to pediatric dentistry, so make sure to do some research. 


In order to specialize in pediatric dentistry, a two-year residency program is required after graduating from dental school. During the time of the residency, dentists will gain clinical experience and learn specialized skills related to young patients. In the two years, dentists also learn child psychology, child development, child-related pharmacology, and other essential areas that are needed to become a pediatric dentist. There are 70+ pediatric dentistry residency training programs that are available throughout the United States. Specific areas of study during the residency can include radiology, advanced surgical procedures for child anatomy, advanced diagnostic and evaluation procedures for children, dental care for special needs patients, conscious sedation and general anesthesia, child development and psychology, and management and treatments of oral/ facial trauma injuries. Once the residency is completed, the dentist can then receive board certification. The certification exam includes oral, practical, and written phases. Once the test is completed and passed, the dentist can become a Diplomate of Pediatric Dentistry.

Career Options 

Once a dentist receives their certification, they have three career options available to them. The first is private practice, and they can work with an existing dental group or open their own practice. The second is public clinics, which are on the rise. The third is private research or academia, and dentists can work with laboratories to develop pediatric dental products or become a teacher. 

Duties of a Pediatric Dentist

You just read how intense the process is to become a pediatric dentist, and there are also basic duties that dentists have to know and know how to perform. Responsibilities include but are not limited to examination of jawbones, gum tissue, and teeth, x-ray scanning, oral surgery, repair and treatment of dental cavities, and initial dental examinations.

We hope you found this information interesting. It takes a lot to become a pediatric dentist. Now you can see just exactly what our dentists had to do to obtain their degrees and licenses. At New Generation Dentistry, we have a pediatric dentist ready to answer your questions! If you have any questions or concerns, please give us a call! If you are ready to make your next appointment, you can visit our website.