What It’s Like to Work in Pediatric Dentistry as a Dental Assistant

HealthcareJune 13, 2024

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 52% of children aged 6 to 8 have had a cavity in their baby teeth, and 57% of adolescents aged 12 to 19 have had a cavity in their permanent teeth. While these statistics highlight why it’s important to establish good oral health habits at an early age, they also demonstrate the crucial nature of pediatric dentists. These professionals not only know how to provide skilled dental work but also use their core skills to make sure that young patients have a positive experience.

Pediatric dental assistants help young patients build habits that can keep their oral health strong from childhood to adulthood. They also help care for children’s teeth, mouth, and gums; this can require different skills from those required in adult dentistry. For those looking to jump into this career, it’s important to become familiar with its scope of duties and education and training requirements. 

Pediatric Dental Assistant Job Description 

Pediatric dental assistants help dentists execute various procedures, such as teeth cleaning and sealant application. Their role can also involve taking and developing X-rays and educating patients and their families on the importance of developing and maintaining effective home oral health strategies, such as proper brushing techniques and routine flossing.

Pediatric dental assistants also put children at ease during dental visits. A child’s first trip to the dentist can induce anxiety because they don’t know what to expect or may be intimidated by unfamiliar dental equipment. A pediatric dental assistant can help children relax by thoughtfully guiding them through the procedures, supporting them in anxious moments, and teaching them how to keep their teeth healthy at home. 

Pediatric Dental Assistant Traits and Skills 

A pediatric dental assistant must possess the skills needed to complete essential dental care tasks. These skills include technical skills for proper equipment use and exceptional dexterity to handle delicate procedures. They must also possess administrative skills, as they may handle various office work, such as scheduling appointments or maintaining patient files. Those in the role must also possess specific skills that allow them to build trust and rapport with their young clients.

You Need to Be Good With Kids 

When young children visit the dentist’s office, they’re often nervous. Dental assistants need to take extra time to help them relax during the visit, explaining every step before they take it and weaving in some fun. This can range from getting the child’s help in counting their own teeth to renaming instruments, so they sound friendly and not scary. These tactics help build their confidence and lessen their worries about coming to see the dentist. It can make it easier for them to understand the importance of taking care of their teeth.

You Need to Understand Their Unique Needs

Children’s teeth can be more susceptible to cavities than adult teeth, and losing them is part of a child’s growing process. Pediatric dental assistants will often focus on applying treatments that help prevent decay, such as fluoride treatments and sealants. When it comes to children’s teeth, preventing cavities is much more manageable than filling them due to poor hygiene or their love of sugary foods and beverages, poor dietary choices that can also contribute to the development of cavities.

You Should Have the Heart of a Teacher

When it comes to caring for their teeth, most kids don’t fully understand the correct ways to brush and floss their teeth. As a result, they’ll need lots of guidance and instruction to help them learn. Part of the role of a pediatric dental assistant will be to teach basic activities, a step that isn’t commonly covered in adult practices. These lessons can stay with patients throughout their lifetime.  

How to Become a Pediatric Dental Assistant

Becoming a pediatric dental assistant begins with gaining the specialized knowledge and skills in a dental assistant training program. These programs commonly take one to two years to complete.

After program completion, the next step is to earn licensure in the intended state of practice. Licensure requirements vary by state; in some states, individuals may also have to earn a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) credential from the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).

A career in pediatric dentistry usually requires on-the-job training. Once an individual earns licensure and certification, if required, they’ll be able to gain experience by working for a pediatric dentist. 

Pursue a Career

A pediatric dental assistant doesn’t just help clean their patients’ teeth or assist in filling cavities. They help lay the foundation for healthy oral care habits that can benefit patients for the rest of their life. Those in the profession can use their knowledge and skills to make a profound impact on a person for decades to come. 

Fortis offers dental assisting and dental hygienist training programs that can help you take the first step toward joining this exciting field. Our program is designed to equip you with a full understanding of dental care as well as the necessary skills to apply your knowledge in the real world. Learn how we can help prepare you to take that first step toward an important career. 

Recommended Readings
Dental Hygienist vs. Dental Assistant: What’s the Difference?
Give Kids a Smile a Day
What Does It Mean to Be Part of the Dental Office Team?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cavities
Dental Assisting National Board, Certified Dental Assistant
Dental Assisting National Board, 4 Joys of Being a Pediatric Dental Assistant
Houston Chronicle, “What Are the Duties of a Pediatric Dental Assistant?”
Indeed, How to Become a Dental Assistant in 5 Steps
Indeed, 17 Essential Skills for a Dental Assistant
Pediatric Dentistry of South Riding, Pediatric Dental Procedures