Report roundup: When should kids first see a dentist?

Visiting the dentist at an early age is an essential part of children’s health care, but the age at which children start dentist visits varies. This month’s Mott Poll report asked parents of children age 0-5 years about their beliefs and experiences about when to start dental visits. Parents and media across the country have been chiming in on this topic – here’s a roundup of the conversation.

Parents need professional advice

Over half of parents in the Mott Poll did not receive guidance about starting dental visits from their child’s doctor or a dentist. This was the focus of a HealthDay article, Many parents in the dark on when kids should first see a dentist. Reporter Robert Preidt noted that 1 in 6 parents without professional guidance believed the first dental visit should come at age 4 or older, but the recommendation is to start around age 1, when baby teeth emerge. Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clark said, “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.”

Preventing tooth decay

Among parents who delayed dental visits, 25% said their child’s teeth are healthy – but early signs of tooth decay may not be noticeable. This was highlighted in a CafeMom piece, Most parents don’t take their kids to the dentist early enough & it’s bad news for their health. Reporter Jordyn Smith mentioned that parents need professional guidance when it comes to discerning the state of their child’s teeth. “Parents may not notice decay until there’s discoloration, and by then the problem has likely become severe,” Clark says. “Immediate dental treatment at the first sign of decay can prevent more significant problems down the road.”

Tips for parents

To help parents care for their child’s teeth, U-M Mott pediatrician Dr. Stephanie Goodson offers some advice in a Michigan Health Blog post, When should a child see a dentist for the first time? Dr. Goodson recommends first getting advice from the child’s pediatrician, who can discuss basic oral hygiene and also apply a fluoride varnish to the child’s teeth for protection. She also recommends taking children to the dentist early to help build comfort with the dentist. Finally, Dr. Goodson advises parents to practice good home dental care, by brushing teeth regularly as soon as they emerge, and avoiding sugary drinks and putting children to bed with a bottle.

For more coverage on this month’s Mott Poll report, check out these articles from UPI, Medscape, Dentistry Today, Romper, and Consumer Affairs.