When Should I Bring My Child for a First Dental Check Up?
Parents of toddlers often ask me when they should bring their children for a first dental check up.
It is an interesting subject since most toddlers who do not visit a dentist do so because their parents do not realise they need to have their children's teeth checked. According to a recent study published by the Faculty of Dental Surgery, as many as 80% of children between the age of one and two did not visit a dentist in 2016-2017. Failure to take infants for a check up could start storing up problems that ultimately lead to younger children having decayed teeth removed.
In Australia, where many families are eligible for government-funded Medicare Child Benefits Scheme & many private health insurances providing gap-free treatment to under 18s, there should be no excuse. Yet we know from parents we speak to that there is widespread confusion about when a child should first visit the dentist.
The earlier a child visits the dentist, the earlier any potential problems can be picked up, so it is easier to prevent children having to go through the trauma of having their teeth removed under a general anaesthetic. Hospitals in England for example, performed a total of 9220 tooth extractions in 2015-2016 among children aged between 1 and 4, often because of tooth decay. More 2 and 3 year olds appear to visit a dentist. The proportion of children between 1 and 4 not visiting is still about 60% though.
Dental check ups in early years are as much about getting children comfortable in a dental environment as they are about checking teeth. Simply getting a child to open their mouth for a dentist to look at their teeth is a useful practice for the future. First impressions are vital if we want children to have a long-term positive impression of dentistry. If a first dental visit results in a stressful, traumatic experience, this could have a serious lifelong effect on a child's willingness to engage in the dental process.