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Poor awareness may hinder a child’s early dental care

Poor awareness may hinder a child’s early dental care

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According to a new survey conducted by researchers at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, many parents are not aware of national recommendations for early dental care for their children.

Credit: George Rudy/

The survey found that one in 6 parents who haven’t received any advice from doctors are likely to postpone their children’s dental care visits until the age of 4 or older.

The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend dental care visits for children from one year of age or upon the emergence of baby teeth.

According to Dr. Sarah Clark, the co-director of the survey, early dental care visits are essential for children’s health. She went onto say that visits are significant for the early detection and treatment of childhood tooth decay and also a worthy opportunity to educate parents on the 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 As recommendations change, they may be hearing outdated information and not getting their kids to the dentist early enough.”

Dr. Sarah Clark, Co-Director of the Survey and Associate Research Scientist at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

The current survey is based on the responses from 790 parents with at least one child in the age group of 0–5 years. Parents who haven’t received any advice from their doctor or a dentist constituted more than half of the total; of which, only 35% believed that dental checkups should start when children are a year or younger.

About 60% of the parents reported their child has had a dental visit with a belief that the dentist visit was 79% worthwhile.

Among the rest 40% of the parents whose children haven’t had a dental checkup, the common reasons for avoiding dental early checkup include younger age (42%), children’s fear of the dentist (15%), and the children’s teeth are healthy (25%).

According to experts, early dental visits could help children in maintaining healthy oral hygiene, along with parents in learning about correct brushing techniques, the significance of reducing sugary drinks, and the need to avoid putting children to bed with a bottle.

Early dental visits enable the early detection of childhood caries–dental decay in baby teeth, thereby allowing the early treatment of tooth decay to avoid more serious problems. For example, in young children with healthy teeth, dentists may apply fluoride varnish to prevent future decay.

A quarter of parents whose children had delayed dental checkups said their child’s teeth are healthy; however, researchers noted that parents are unlikely to detect early tooth decay.

The current survey has reported that parents with higher income and education, and those with private dental insurance, were more likely to receive proper guidance from doctors on when to start dental visits.

Dr. Clark said: “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.”

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.”

Dr. Sarah Clark, Co-Director of the Survey and Associate Research Scientist at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.


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