According to a new poll, lack of guidance for parents may delay their child’s first trip to the dentist.
One in six parents who did not receive advice from a health care provider believed children should delay dentist visits until age 4 or older – years later than what experts recommend – according to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health. The American Academy of Paediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that a child visit the dentist by age 1 or within six months after the first tooth comes out.
"Visiting the dentist at an early age is an essential part of children’s health care," says Mott poll co-director Sarah Clark. "These visits are important for the detection and treatment of early childhood tooth decay and also a valuable opportunity to educate parents on key aspects of oral health."
"Our poll finds that when parents get clear guidance from their child’s doctor or dentist, they understand the first dental visit should take place at an early age. Without such guidance, some parents turn to family or friends for advice. As recommendations change, they may be hearing outdated information and not getting their kids to the dentist early enough."
The nationally representative poll is based on responses from 790 parents with at least one child aged 0-5.
More than half of parents did not receive guidance from their child’s doctor or a dentist about when to start dentist visits. Among parents who were not prompted by a doctor or dentist, only 35% believed dentist visits should start when children are a year or younger as is recommended.
Over half of parents (60%) reported their child has had a dental visit with most parents (79%) believing the dentist visit was worthwhile. Among the 40% of parents whose child has not had a dental visit, common reasons for not going were that the child is not old enough (42%), the child’s teeth are healthy (25%), and the child would be scared of the dentist (15%).
Experts say starting dental visits early helps set children up for healthy oral hygiene, with parents learning about correct brushing techniques, the importance of limiting sugary drinks, and the need to avoid putting children to bed with a bottle.
Early childhood cavities (dental decay in baby teeth) may also be detected at young ages, allowing for treatment of decay to avoid more serious problems. In young children with healthy teeth, dentists may apply fluoride varnish to prevent future decay.