American 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 national survey finds.
The poll of 790 parents with at least one child aged 5 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 4 or older.
But the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dental Association recommend starting dental visits around age 1, when baby teeth first emerge.
“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.
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 As recommendations change, they may be hearing outdated information and not getting their kids to the dentist early enough.”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 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 percent thought dentist visits should start when children are aged 1 year or younger, according to the poll.
Sixty percent of parents said their child had seen a dentist, and 79 percent of those parents said the dentist visit was worthwhile, the findings showed.
Among the 40 percent of parents whose child had not yet seen a dentist, common reasons for not going included: the child is not old enough (42 percent); the child’s teeth are healthy (25 percent); and the child would be afraid of the dentist (15 percent).
The poll results were published online Feb. 19.
The American Academy of Pediatrics explains the importance of regular dental visits.