Pediatric Dentistry FAQs

What is pediatric dentistry? 

Pediatric dentistry is an age-defined specialty branch of dentistry that provides comprehensive preventive and therapeutic oral health care for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special needs. 

What is a pediatric dentist? 

A pediatric dentist is a specialist who has additional skills, knowledge, and advanced education to care for infant through adolescent patients. That is beyond the DDS or DMD training. To become a pediatric dental specialist, a dentist must satisfactorily complete a minimum of 24 months in an advance education program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation or the American Dental Association (ADA). After completing 4 years of college, 4 years of dental school and at least 2 years of a residency, the pediatric dentist will then work in coordination with other health care providers and members of social disciplines for the benefit of children.  

What are some of the benefits of taking your child to a pediatric dentist? 

By being an age-specific specialty, pediatric dentistry encompasses disciplines such as behavior guidance, care of the medically and developmentally compromised and disabled patient, supervision of orofacial growth and development, caries prevention and restoration of teeth, sedation, pharmacological management and hospital dentistry. A good analogy is that a pediatric dentist is similar to a pediatrician within the field of medicine.  

At what age should your child begin seeing a pediatric dentist and find their ‘dental home’?

The dental home is the ongoing relationship between the dentist and the patient, inclusive of all aspects of oral health care, delivered in a comprehensive family-centered way. It is recommended that establishment of your child’s dental home should begin by 12 months of age or at least 6 months after the 1st teeth appear.  

What are some of the risks of not seeking dental care? 

Dental caries (cavities), periodontal (gum and bone) disease, dental alveolar trauma, and other oral conditions left untreated can substantially limit a child’s development and their participation in life activities. A child may have a ‘dental disability’ if pain, infection, or lack of stable and functional teeth: 

  • Restricts nutritional intake necessary for their growth and energy needs.  

  • Delays or alters growth and development 

  • Inhibits participation in life activities 

  • Diminishes their quality of life 

What if my child has special health care needs? 

Special health care needs include any physical, developmental, mental, sensory, behavioral, cognitive, emotional impairment or limiting condition that requires medical management, intervention, or use of specialized services. Care for individuals with special needs requires specialized knowledge acquired by additional training as well as an increased awareness and attention, being able to adapt, and use accommodating measures beyond what are considered routine. Dr. McNutt was a long term fellow training at the Chauncey Sparks Center in Birmingham, AL for treatment of children and adults with special needs. He treated children and adults with a wide range of special needs since beginning private practice.  

Pediatric dentistry and orthodontics 

Since pediatric dentists are well trained in dental and facial growth and development, a select few may have additional training in diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities for children and adolescents. During his residency for pediatric dentistry, Dr. McNutt received training under the supervision of the Orthodontic Department at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. He has also received hundreds of hours of continuing education in orthodontics. While his specialty is not in orthodontics, Dr. McNutt is able to offer a full range of comprehensive orthodontic services himself or work with an orthodontist if you choose with a great deal of understanding and cooperation.