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Delayed First Visit to Dentist Can Affect Children’s Lifelong Oral Health

Posted Oct 09 2009 10:01pm

A recent study conducted by the nation’s leading dental benefits provider, Delta Dental Plans Association , found that most American children don’t see their family dentist until they’re well over 2 years old, far later than recommended by most dental professionals.

The survey of 914 primary caregivers revealed that the average age children first visited a family dentist was 2.6 years of age. Furthermore, the study found that 34% of those sampled had children under the age of 11 that had never been to the dentist!

Those surveyed commonly responded that their children were “too young,” or “didn’t have enough teeth” to visit the dentist. A number of others cited a lack of dental insurance as the reason they delayed their child’s dental visit.

According to Jed J. Jacobson, DDS, MS, MPH, chief science officer and senior V.P. at Delta Dental:

“Many Americans don’t understand how important their children’s baby teeth are to lifelong oral health. There’s a continuing need for more education to teach practices that will ensure lifelong oral health. And, since people overwhelmingly prefer the dentist and dental hygienist as their primary oral health information sources, dental benefits that encourage visits to the dentist are crucial.”

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists (AAPD) recommends that a child go to the dentist by age 1 or within six months after the first tooth erupts.

The AAPD also states that proper care of baby teeth are critically important for the following reasons:

  • Help children chew properly to maintain good nutrition.
  • Are involved in speech development.
  • Help save space for permanent teeth.
  • Promote a healthy smile that helps children feel good about the way they look.

Furthermore, the AAPD advises caregivers to gently wipe the baby’s gums with a soft, wet cloth after each feeding. When primary teeth begin to appear, they should be cleaned with a soft, child-sized toothbrush and a pea-sized dab of children’s toothpaste, twice a day.

For additional pediatric dental care tips, Delta Dental has a number of educational videos that caregivers of small children shouldn’t miss.

Were you aware of these guidelines recommended by the AARP? What are your thoughts?

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