When should my child first see a dentist?

It's never too early to go to the dentist.
It's never too early to go to the dentist.

Parents are less likely to seek early dental care for their children if they don't receive guidance from a doctor or dentist, a new survey finds.

The poll of 790 parents with at least one child aged five or younger found that one in six of those who did not receive dental advice from a health care provider, thought children shouldn't visit a dentist until age four or older.

But the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dental Association recommend starting dental visits around age one, when baby teeth first emerge.

A valuable opportunity

"Visiting the dentist at an early age is an essential part of children's health care," said Sarah Clark, co-director of the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.

"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," she added in a university new release.

A previous Health24 article emphasises that a child’s first visit to the dentist is an important part of growing up, and going to the dentist regularly is a very important part of establishing good dental habits.  

Need for guidance

Clark said the poll showed "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 As recommendations change, they may be hearing outdated information and not getting their kids to the dentist early enough."

Unfortunately, more than half of the parents did not receive guidance from their child's doctor or a dentist about when to start taking their child to the dentist.

Among parents who did not receive guidance from a doctor or dentist, only 35% thought dentist visits should start when children are aged one year or younger, according to the poll.

But 60% of parents said their child had seen a dentist, and 79% of those parents said the visit was worthwhile, the findings showed.

Among the 40% of parents whose child had not yet seen a dentist, common reasons for not going included: the child is not old enough (42%); the child's teeth are healthy (25%); and the child would be afraid of the dentist (15%).

Image credit: iStock

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
29% - 9750 votes
71% - 23975 votes