6 min read

Pediatric Dentist and Orthodontist: Why does my child need both?

When a child loses their first tooth, it’s a big milestone! As children start to show their jack-o-lantern smiles, parents often start to wonder how the adult teeth might grow in. With the naked eye, it is completely impossible to tell what your child’s smile will look like once they have their full set of adult teeth. Will there be crowding? Will they have crooked front teeth or an overbite? Did their thumb sucking causing permanent problems? More importantly, how can you set your child up for dental success? While your pediatric dentist will have good insight, a visit to an orthodontist is also recommended to make sure your child is on the right track. While both are invested in your child’s dental health, it is helpful for you as a parent to know the specific advantages of having both a pediatric dentist and an orthodontist for your child.

Pediatric Dentistry

The term dentistry covers any medical treatment of the teeth, gums, and jaws. Dentists go through a demanding and comprehensive education so that they can give you the safest and best care possible. This requires a bachelor’s degree, followed by another four years of dental school. At this point, dentists will go on to complete two years of residency where they continue to practice and hone their skills. Then, to become Board Certified, they go through a rigorous process of testing and peer evaluation. Pediatric dentists spend their residency learning the exact skills and practices they will need to treat patients from ages 0 to 22.

By the end of their intensive two-year residency, pediatric dentists have all the experience and qualifications necessary to take care of your child’s teeth, gums, and mouth through infancy, childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. Children who are growing and changing have different dental needs than adults, and dentists who specialize in pediatrics can use their expert skills to care for your child in ways that a regular dentist may not always be equipped for.

Pediatric dentist should be excellent at guiding you and your child toward active and age-appropriate approaches to preventative dental care during regular oral health exams. This means that the dentist will watch for early signs of decay while educating you and your child about proper nutritional, flossing, and brushing habits to prevent gum and tooth decay. If your child should need restorative treatment, a pediatric dentist has the best training to offer the appropriate treatment, specifically designed to keep your child comfortable and calm during the procedure. These treatments might include gum care, root canals, crowns or bridges, fillings, sealants, extractions, or fittings for mouth guards. When sedation is needed for a treatment, it can be a stressful event for both parents and children. Finding a pediatric dentist who recognizes this and partners with sedation experts who can specifically treat your child’s individual case is important for both you and your child’s experience at the dentist’s office.

Alongside excellent dental skills, a good pediatric dentist and their office team will have outstanding patient care skills. Striving to give your child a “dental home,” Dr. Culp and our team at Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry have been trained in compassionate and calming techniques that will lessen anxiety around going to the dentist, allowing your child to have a positive experience at the office. If sedation is necessary, we are truly fortunate to have Dr. Jason Brady, nationally and internationally recognized unconscious sedation specialist, perform this very important role in our office. His bedside manner and intimate knowledge of this technique make Dr. Brady the best choice for your child. If your child has special needs, it is essential to find a pediatric dentist that is both comfortable and confident, giving your child the best experience possible while catering to their specific needs. Dr. Culp has over twenty years of experience in handling a wide variety of children’s needs, including but not limited to physical handicaps, autism spectrum disorders, sensory and speech related delays and disorders, and other impairments.


Orthodontics is a specialized form of dentistry that works specifically to treat irregularities of the teeth and jaw, usually correcting bites and straightening teeth. Similar to other dentists, orthodontists earn both a bachelor’s degree and attend four years of medical school. After medical school, orthodontists attend another 2-3 years of graduate school focused specifically on orthodontia. This extra education prepares them to provide specialized and excellent orthodontic care. Finally, as a pediatric dentist does, an orthodontist must also go through a rigorous process of testing and peer evaluation to become Board Certified. While some dentists can provide basic orthodontic care, they have not gone through the additional 2-3 years of training that focuses particularly on providing orthodontic care for your family.

Your pediatric dentist will be able to provide essential dental services for your child, but an orthodontist will be able to specifically and excellently treat malocclusion or poor alignment. The American Association of Orthodontics recommends your child have their first orthodontic visit around age 7, and your pediatric dentist and orthodontist will work together to determine the optimal time for your child to be seen for the first time. Adding another appointment to your already hectic schedule may seem unnecessary, especially if your child seems to have straight teeth. However, orthodontists can also detect tongue-thrusting, mouth-breathing, teeth grinding, or other problems that a parent may not notice.

Age seven is recommended for the first orthodontic appointment because your child’s mouth, jaw, and facial features are still growing and malleable. Early orthodontic work may start then, with the orthodontist potentially using space maintainers or palatal expanders to help your child’s mouth become an optimal environment for adult teeth to grow into. The orthodontist may tell you that your child does not need treatment at that time. In that case, they will schedule a follow-up appointment to check in on your child’s development. As children change and grow, they may need orthodontics as they start their pre-teen years to correct a misaligned bite or crooked teeth. A pediatric dentist cannot provide these treatments with the same amount of highly specialized training an orthodontist receives. However, these are all key ways of caring for your child’s teeth.

Better Together

As you can see, pediatric dentists and orthodontists play very different roles in the health of your child. At Jungle Root’s Pediatric Dentistry, we have created an office atmosphere that is both soothing and exciting for children, recognizing that the experience of going to the dentist shouldn’t be scary for children. This means that everyone on staff at our office interacts with every member of the family with attentiveness and care. A positive and fun-filled visit, along with building a trusting relationship with the dental team, is essential to making your child feel comfortable returning to their pediatric dentist office. The specialized training and experience that your pediatric dentist has makes sure that any office visit is suited particularly to your child’s individual needs.

Parents who are willing to take the time to seek out a dentist trained in pediatric care clearly take the health and wellness of their children seriously. They have decided that finding a dentist with extra training and care for their child’s needs is important to them. For this same reason, finding an orthodontist for your child may be equally as critical to your child’s health. Much like pediatric dentists, orthodontists have dedicated years of their life to developing the skills they need to serve your family. Just as your pediatric dentist has certain strengths, an orthodontist will be able to treat your child in ways that the pediatric dentist isn’t equipped to.

Dr. Culp is a Board Certified Pediatric Dentist with over 20 years of experience. A kind and dedicated husband and father, he interacts with patients as he would want his family to be treated. He designed every aspect of Jungle Roots to care for your child’s oral health while making your child’s dental treatment a positive experience to encourage trust and cooperation. To keep all your child’s dental services in one dental home where they are already comfortable, we are adding a Board Certified Orthodontist, to the Jungle Roots family. We believe that treating your child’s dental and orthodontic needs in the same place will make appointments for orthodontic care a seamless, more comfortable transition.

Just as establishing a relationship with a dentist early in your child’s life is important, establishing a trusting patient-doctor relationship with an orthodontist at an early age serves the same purpose. That orthodontist will track your child’s growth and changes which can be vital to detecting problems. More than that, familiarizing your child with an orthodontist can make the entire process of orthodontic procedures much less stressful and scary for them. In turn, this makes the whole process easier on you, the parent. Most importantly, finding an exceptional pediatric dental and orthodontic team that you and your child trust will not only ease the experience of visits, but it will play a significant role in keeping your child healthy and smiling for years to come!

At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.

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