Pediatric Dentist Vs General Dentist: What’s the Difference?

Pediatric Dentist Vs General Dentist

Many general dentists practice on kids, but that does not necessarily make pediatric dentists! There is an important reason pediatric dentists differentiate their line of work from other dentists. The main difference between the two is that a pediatric dentist specializes in dentistry for children and a general dentist does not. Like orthodontists or periodontists, pediatric dentists have special training and education that make them more qualified to work with kids than other dental professionals may be. 

What sets a pediatric dentist apart?


Like general dentists, pediatric dentists need to obtain a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university and then complete dental school. In fact, all dentists need to have a basic understanding of general dentistry! After school, however, dentists can choose to start a residency or practice right away or they can pursue a specialty. Pediatric dentists must train and study at a 2 – 3 year program specifically dedicated to pediatric dentistry. In this program, they learn special skills and techniques to treat children. It also provides comprehensive, in-depth knowledge and experience about dental problems that commonly affect children, such as tooth decay, thumb sucking, fluorosis, tongue thrusting, “shark teeth”, and more. 


Because pediatric dentists work with children of all ages, they have kid-friendly tools for every stage of life from infancy to young adulthood. Often, children struggle to sit still during dental exams and cleanings because the dental appliances are too big and uncomfortable in their mouths. Pediatric dentists, however, have equipment that is perfectly suited for kids! They also have the tools for even the youngest patients. For example, they can show parents how to clean baby mouths with finger brushes and tongue cleaners. 

Pediatric dentists also dedicate their practice to children. What this means is their office and staff are all kid-friendly! Many children get nervous in a typical dental office, but pediatric dentists usually have bright colors and characters throughout the clinic to make children feel at home. The admin and dental hygienists are also trained to work with both parents and children in a friendly, understandable manner. At New Generation Dentistry, our Mission Viejo pediatric dentist provide headphones for kids to listen to music or shows while they are being operated on. It can make a world of difference not to hear scary drilling during your dental appointment!


Because pediatric dentists must complete a 2 – 3 year specialty program, they have a lot of experience with all kinds of patients. They are well versed in communication and behavior management for the most finicky kids. Pediatric dentists know how to talk to their patients and educate them on how to maintain strong, healthy teeth. 

Another skill that pediatric dentists acquire is the ability to quickly evaluate whether a child’s teeth and jaw bones are developing correctly. If not, they can refer your child to a children’s orthodontist who can fix the problem before it becomes serious. Most pediatric dentists also provide treatment and services to special needs patients. 

Why should I choose a pediatric dentist?

Every family is different and choosing a dentist ultimately depends on your family’s unique needs and preferences. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to your family’s dental and overall health. Pediatric dentist do, however, offer a lot for kids. Having a specialist diagnose and treat your children’s teeth can make a tremendous difference in their future! With a pediatric dentist, you can be assured that your child’s dental care is in the right hands. 

Not only do pediatric dentists have the skills and tools to treat your child, they genuinely love working with children. A caring, compassionate pediatric dentist will work extra hard to build a positive relationship with your child, so your child has a positive association with the dentist for years to come. Without this foundation of trust, children could potentially grow up with dental anxiety that prevents them from seeking medical help as adults. Establishing a dental home with a consistent and reliable provider is essential to maintaining healthy teeth from infancy to early adulthood. 

Can pediatric dentist treat adults? 

Though pediatric dentists are qualified to treat adults, their specialty is children and they often only accept patients under 18. This choice is not necessarily because they don’t want to treat adults but because they know their strengths, experience, and knowledge are in pediatric dentistry, not general dentistry. Unlike general dentists, they may not offer services that are popular for adults, such as Invisalign, denture repair, or cosmetic dentistry. 

At New Generation Dentistry, we have a general dentist and pediatric dentist working in our family-friendly office! It’s important to use that everyone in the family is taken care of together and we find that children are less nervous about the dentist if they see their parents being treated first. Best of all, your children can transition to our general dentist after they become adults, so there is no hassle of finding a new office after their 18th birthday! Give us a call at New Generation Dentistry in Mission Viejo to learn more about our pediatric dentistry and general dentistry services.