More than half of American preschool children ages 2 through 5 have never been to a dentist! This was the sad conclusion of a large study published in the November 2002 issue of the American Journal of Public Health. Why might this be?
Conflicting recommendations about the age of the first dental visit have left many parents confused or unaware about when to start. The dentists of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend that your child should see a pediatric dentist at least once when the first tooth appears, or no later than his/her first birthday. The pediatricians of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend a visit by age 3. The multidisciplinary guidelines that I had a hand in, for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Clinical Practice, took a middle ground recommending a visit by age 2.
Until the experts reach a consensus, you will want to be sure that your child does not fall through the cracks. Other barriers remain, however. There are still many areas where pediatric dentists are not available or have long waiting lists. Even where they are available, financial barriers are real.
Many providers do not take Medicaid. Even if they did, more than 1 in 9 children in the U.S. have no health insurance at all. And far more children have no coverage for dental care.