Most American children don’t see their family dentist until they are over 3 years old, far later than is recommended by both dental and medical professionals.
That’s one of the key findings from a survey of American children’s oral health,  conducted on behalf of Delta Dental Plans Association (DDPA), the nation’s leading dental benefits provider.
The survey revealed that for those children ages 1 to 11 that had seen a dentist, the average age at the initial visit was 3.1 years. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child go to the dentist by age 1 or within six months after the first tooth erupts.  Almost half of children under age 3 in this survey had never been to the dentist.
Tooth decay is nearly 100 percent preventable. So it’s important to begin good oral health habits, like visiting the dentist, at a young age. Studies show that early preventive dental care such as check-ups and cleanings can save in future dental treatment costs.
Among children who have never visited the dentist or who have not seen a dentist in the past 12 months, the most mentioned reason (52 percent) was that “the child is too young” or “doesn’t have enough teeth yet.” Lack of insurance coverage was cited by 16 percent of the caregivers.
What to Expect at Your Child’s First Visit
During a typical first visit, the dentist will:
- Examine your child’s teeth for early signs of decay, but will also look for problems with the baby’s head, neck, jaws, skin and soft tissues in and around the mouth like the tongue, cheeks and lips. Your child’s bite, facial growth and development will also be assessed.
- Demonstrate various tooth brushing and flossing techniques and positions to help parents care for their baby’s teeth properly.
- Discuss diet and feeding/snacking practices that may put the child at risk for decay.
- Address the use of topical fluoride.
- Provide information about trauma prevention.
 Morpace Inc. conducted the 2011 Delta Dental Children’s Oral Health Survey. Interviews were conducted by email nationally with 907 primary caregivers of children from birth to age 11. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of error is ±3.25 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.
 American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry – Policy on the Dental Home. http://www.aapd.org/media/Policies_Guidelines/P_DentalHome.pdf