Less than half of parents received guidance about starting dental visits from a doctor or dentist, worse among low-income parents.
One in 6 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 this month’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dental Association both recommend starting dental visits around age one when baby teeth emerge.
“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 As recommendations change, they may be hearing outdated information and not getting their kids to the dentist early enough.”
“Our poll suggests that families who are low-income, less educated, and on Medicaid are less likely to receive professional guidance on dental care. This is particularly problematic because low-income children have higher rates of early childhood tooth decay and would benefit from early dental care,” Clark says.
“Providers who care for at-risk populations should dedicate time to focus on the importance of dental visits. Parents should also ask their child’s doctor or their own dentist about when to start dentist visits and how to keep their child’s teeth healthy.”