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Recommendations on Baby's First Dental Visit Are Largely Ignored
May 14, 2014

By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service

INTELIHEALTH - Experts recommend that children have their first dental visit after the first tooth comes in or before their first birthday. But a Canadian study has found that less than 1% of children meet this goal.

The study included information about 2,505 children. All were from the Toronto area and under age 6.

Of the children, 949 – or 38% -- had never seen a dentist. Of the children who had seen a dentist, only 2% had their first visit before the age of 2. Less than 1% visited a dentist before the age of 1.

The researchers found the following factors were linked with not visiting the dentist:

  • Younger age of the child
  • Longer use of a baby bottle
  • Lower family income - Compared with children from the highest income bracket, children from families with income below $60,000 (Canadian dollars) were nearly 3 times as likely to have never visited the dentist.
  • Higher intake of sweetened drinks - With each 8 ounces of sweetened drinks consumed per day, the odds of never visiting the dentist increased by 20%.

Researchers also looked at early childhood tooth decay in the group of children who had visited a dentist at least once. Of these children, 24% had some tooth decay. Certain factors were linked with early childhood tooth decay in this group:

  • Lower family income - Compared with children from the highest income bracket, children from families with income below $60,000 (Canadian dollars) were nearly twice as likely to have early childhood tooth decay.
  • Having a mother with East Asian ancestry (versus European) - Children with mothers who had East Asian ancestry were nearly twice as likely as other children to have early childhood tooth decay.

Dental coverage is not part of Canada's national health care system. Many Canadian children are insured through their parents' employers. Canadian provinces provide limited dental benefits to low-income children, similar to Medicaid in the United States.

The authors note that virtually no children are seeing a dentist before their first birthday. Also, the children who most need dental care also are those less likely to get it. The authors say their findings support public funding of routine preventive dental care for children.

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