So, you’re interested in pediatric dentistry? I know the feeling! It’s an exciting specialty with opportunities to practice on young patients in a variety of settings. There is a unique joy in setting up patients and families for a lifetime of optimal oral health.
I am just about half way through my residency training at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. As a first-year resident, the majority of my time is spent treating patients in a hospital-based clinic, as well as an urban health center in the area.
My advice on the application process:
1. Know your Options
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry website is the gold standard for information about residency programs. There are more than 85 residencies accredited by CODA in the United States. The vast majority are 24 month commitments, but a few can be up to 3 years long.
If you’re interested in this specialty, or treating kids as a general dentist, I highly recommend investing in predoctoral student AAPD membership. You will gain access to a valuable membership network and educational opportunities.
2. Learn the Lingo
The vocabulary used to describe training can seem intimidating at first. For example, I am at a certificate-only program with a strong special health care needs population. We do frequent sedations, inpatient consults, interceptive orthodontics and take emergency trauma call. Don’t expect to fully understand every component. It’s more important that you ask questions about these phrases rather than memorize every piece of jargon.
3. Set your Limits
The application process is time-intensive and costly but well worth the investment. There are several key differences between programs to evaluate that may help you narrow your target range. An obvious one is whether there are tuition fees, a paid stipend, or both. Another big difference is whether you earn a certificate only or a master’s degree.
Be open-minded and connect with current residents or practicing pediatric dentists to ask them about which features of their program are highlights of their practice now. Opinions will vary, even among those from the same program! Don’t assume any one opinion will match your own perception.
4. Get Organized
2011-2012 ASDA president Dr. Adam Shisler, is about to graduate from his pediatric dentistry residency with a certificate and a master’s degree from The University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston. In 2013 he presented on ‘Getting Into a Residency’ at a national ASDA meeting. This graphic sums up his timeline:
My biggest piece of advice is to finish your CV and personal statement early in the spring of the year you apply. Your letter writers will want to see these to help draft your recommendation. Give them as much good information as you can! The biggest delay in your process will likely be waiting on these letters from your busy faculty members, so be sure you can provide them with your important documents EARLY ON.
5. Fight the Good Fight
Competition is tough for residency. About half of applicants will match and half will be left to decide on a different step in their careers. If your interests in pediatric oral health are strong, it’s entirely possible to treat plenty of kids in a general practice. Future and current dentists can improve treatment of pediatric patients in their office via CE courses, seeking a mentor and learning the various policies and guidelines of the AAPD.
What else are you curious about in applying to a pediatric dentistry residency? Have you found other helpful resources for the application process?
-Dr. Colleen Greene, MPH, 2012-2013 ASDA president