Career Compass

5 tips for pediatric dentistry hopefuls

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.

Dr. Colleen Greene visits the ADA building in Chicago with her fellow co-residents.
Dr. Colleen Greene (third from right) visits the ADA building in Chicago with her fellow co-residents.

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

Colleen Greene

Dr. Colleen Greene MPH is a board-certified pediatric dentist at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin and full-time faculty in their pediatric dentistry residency program. She currently serves on the ADA New Dentist Committee as well as the Legislative Advocacy committee of the Wisconsin Dental Association. In 2012-2013 she was president of ASDA.

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  1. Great blog and great advice. I agree with getting all your letters from “your busy faculty members” early on. The sooner the better I always say.

    1. Colleen Greene says:

      Thanks for reading, Dr. Ilapogue!

  2. Michael leoson says:

    Kids are more prone to dental diseases due to unmanaged and unsafe eating habits. My 5 year old kid has a fond of chocolates, and I always afraid that he will get cavities. I shared my worry with my family doctor Dr. Indah, and now, I take my son to her clinic in Sunnyvale for regular cleaning. Now, I am tension-free.

  3. Kids are most important in our life .Pediatric Dentistry is also most important to all parents . I have read your post .It is really helpful who are interested in pediatric dentistry.

    Thank you so much for this post .

  4. Thank you for the wonderful advice. Now I know how to create my application form. This advice really helps me to find ideas and info I need for making application.

  5. miaelizabeth says:

    This blog is very helpful and good to know that American Academy of pediatric dentistry has involved in providing information for residency program. I have 6 year old kid and she is very fond of chocolates, she eats lots of chocolate a day. I am very much concerned about her teeth. Her front 2 teeth are already been damaged because of her wrong eating habits. Some days she complains of having pain. I’m planning to take her to a dentist. One of my close friend suggested Dr. David Silberman in Houston,a child teeth specialist. I really hope everything goes right.

  6. Deanna R. Jones says:

    I wonder if my sister knows about this site. She’s currently training to work as a dentist. I haven’t asked her what field of dentistry she would like to go into, but she would make an excellent pediatric dentist. I didn’t know that earning a certificate is very different from earning a master’s degree. I should tell her to go for a master’s if she wants to work as a pediatric dentist.

  7. Jenn Davies says:

    Thanks for the pros and cons. I think there are more benefits to pediatric dentistry than any other branch, but I might be biased since I have two little kids. I know they’re grateful whenever a dentist talks to them on their level and makes the visit fun. |

  8. Dylan Withers says:

    Wow! These are really awesome tips for those pediatric dentist wanna be out there.

  9. To become a doctor, it doesn’t matter of which category, you have to be absolutely sure in this decision. I think not everyone can deal with this profession so you have to weigh all pros and cons. You should be able to work under presser all the time, to make quick decision and to have absolutely chilly heart. So think is it about you or not?
    Also you need good personal statement. Sometimes we think that to write personal statement is very easy task and don’t give enough attention to it. As a result we make very common mistakes even with grammar. I think, it is good to make a plan before you will start. I mean to write thesis what you want employer will know about you. Also it is important to write truth. Some people like to exaggerate especially with their experience. But it is easy to check. For example, if you don’t have enough knowledge. And of course, if you are not attentive and make punctual, grammar mistakes or text of your personal statement is unprofessional, like school composition – this will be like red light for the employer. So, if you are not sure in your capacities it is better to find some help.
    I can also share with you some interesting information. Some days before, I have found this service and it is really useful with writing personal statement.

  10. Louis Nicholson says:

    Guys, I would like to agree that the topic about professional resume writing is actual all the time. And if talking about me personally, I have found some very useful pediatric personal statement, which always help me with any kind of issues. And I am sure that each of us should do the same, because not everyone has skills good enough to make a perfect resume by himself. And it is quite normal to ask some professionals to help us with this problem. And later each of us will get experience in this area and maybe will be able to do it independently.

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