Most new parents know the importance of taking their child to a pediatrician for regular wellness checks, but regular dental visits are important, too. After all, whole body health depends on oral health, and vice versa.
Delaying that first visit can have real consequences, as a new study in JADA shows.
Analyzing data from just over 700,000 privately insured children between the age of 6 months and 6 years, researchers found that 21% had tooth decay requiring treatment at the time of their first dental appointment. Their average age at that first visit was 3 ½ years old.
The risk of restorative treatment increased with patient age at first dental visit. By the time patients are 3, they have more than double the risk of needing restorative treatment as children seen before the age of 1. At 4 years old, children have quadruple the risk.
In fact, by the time a child turns 3, they’re actually a couple years overdue for their first visit. Yes, you should take your child for their first dental exam within 6 months of their first tooth appearing and no later than their first birthday. There are two big reasons for this:
- It’s an opportunity to make sure that your child’s jaws, teeth, and related structures are growing properly, as well as evaluate their risk of caries (decay) and learn practical things you can do to minimize that risk.
- It helps get your child comfortable with going to the dentist. The sights, sounds, and smells of a dental office can seem strange or even scary to little ones. Letting them get used to this environment early usually makes future visits go much more smoothly.
Another recent study found that regular dental checkups were one of the main protective factors associated with better oral health in preschoolers.
Of course, there’s plenty you can do at home to help support your kids’ oral health, too, from guiding them into good hygiene habits (review our list of tips here) to providing a healthy diet. That means going easy on ultra-processed foods, sugars, and other refined carbs, and focusing on nutrient-dense meals made mainly from whole foods.
How much does diet matter? Research in adults has shown that this dietary switch alone can be enough to reverse gum disease, even with no changes in oral hygiene.
One of the best resources on healthy eating for the whole family is the Weston A. Price Foundation. Their website is loaded with articles, podcasts, and other media to help you and your family – including young children – shift to healthier eating patterns. They also have local chapters to help you connect with like-minded parents, including chapters in Fort Worth and Dallas.
Of course, if your kids are a bit older and accustomed to eating an ultraprocessed diet, the shift to healthier eating can seem daunting. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though, and plenty of parents have shared their own kid-tested tips online – here and here, for instance, and in the video below.
And when you bring your children to our Arlington office for their regular dental visits, we can provide individualized nutrition and hygiene info, as well, based on their unique needs and your family’s situation.
That’s something you’re not apt to get at just any dental office. It’s another aspect of the holistic, biological difference. And if for any reason we’re not able to see your kids, we’re always happy and able to provide a referral to an appropriate pediatric specialist for their needs.