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Pediatric Dentists


Dentistry has been practiced for thousands of years. Egyptian scrolls dating from 1500 B.C. detail rudimentary dental treatments. In the United States, dentisty began in the 1630s with the arrival of barber-surgeons with the settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. English surgeon and dentist John Baker was one of the first dentists to practice in America. He began treating patients in Boston in 1763.

By the early 1800s, the United States had become a world leader in dental developments. Noteworthy firsts of the 19th century include the publication of the first dental journal, the American Journal of Dental Science (1839); the establishment of the first dental school, the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery (1840); the founding of the first national society of dentists, the American Society of Dental Surgeons (1840); the discovery of anesthetic properties of nitrous oxide (1844); the establishment of the first dental school to be affiliated with a university (Harvard University) (1867); and the first licensure of dentists (1868).

The formalized practice of pediatric dentistry, also known as pedodontics, is a relatively new development. A few dentists specialized in the early 1900s, but at the time, children’s dentistry was an unpopular profession. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, “Children were considered unmanageable and their teeth difficult to treat. Few parents sought treatment for their children’s baby teeth, and those who did, expected to pay lower fees since the teeth would fall out later.”

A few dentists became interested in treating children. They developed behavior management techniques that made treatments easier. Despite increasing interest, pedodontics did not receive much respect from the dental profession.

Those dentists interested in treating children founded the American Society of Dentistry for Children (ASDC) in 1927. Despite the ASDC’s founding, there were still no established educational qualifications, no standards of practice, and no certifying boards for pediatric dentists. In 1940, members of the ASDC formulated certification requirements that led to the creation of the American Board of Pedodontics. Pedodontics was recognized as a specialty practice area by the American Dental Association (ADA) in 1942. Also in 1942, the ADA announced that pedodontics should be included in the curriculum of all dental schools—more than 100 years after the establishment of the first school of dentistry in the United States. 

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry was founded in 1947. According to the academy, its members are "primary care and specialty providers for millions of children from infancy through adolescence."

Today, pediatric dentists play a key role in caring for the dental needs of children and those with special needs.