female dentists examines a child
When is the right time to take your child for their first dental appointment? Unfortunately, it seems most parents wait too long. Research indicates that children who receive preventive dental care during the first year of life have less dental disease. According to previous studies, they also have lower dental-related health care costs and are less likely to require restorative or emergency treatment. With all these benefits of receiving preventive dental care in the first year after a baby is born, wouldn’t it makes sense that every parent takes advantage of this crucial time?

Doctors and researchers from the St. Michael’s Hospital and The Hospital for Sick Children collaborated with TARGet Kids! (The Applied Research Group for Kids!) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This program aims to prevent common problems in children and understand their impact on health and disease later in life by following them from birth. The study featured 2,505 healthy urban children around the age of four from TARGet Kids! who were surveyed from 2011 to 2013. This study, published in the journal Pediatrics, shows that less than 1% of the children surveyed had received dental care by the age of 12 months, the recommended age of the first time a child should see the dentist. Furthermore, fewer than 2% of the children had visited a dentist by the age of 24 months. The study also found that 39% out of all the kids around 4 years old that were surveyed had never been to the dentist.

Associated Factors

The study found several factors that were associated with children never having been to the dentist. Those factors include age, low family income, high daily consumption of sweetened drinks such as juice, as well as night time prolonged bottle use. Sweetened beverage consumption is a risk for developing cavities as the carbohydrates in it aids bacterial growth which leads to cavities. Researchers noted that children who had visited the dentist and were found to have one or more cavities was associated with older age, lower family income, and East Asian maternal ancestry. Cavities not only inflict pain in children, but also lead to problems in feeding, behavior, and nutritional status.

There are many reasons as to why parents and guardians choose not to take their kids to the dentist at an early age. Some believe that dental health is not vital to overall well-being. Others simply have too many barriers that prevent them for doing so including access to transportation, school absence policies, and financial ability. At this time, dental care is not part of the universal health care system in Canada and is mostly offered in private practice settings on a fee-for-service method in the United States.

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