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We've had several people provide us a schedule for our baby to visit a doctor, but nobody has given us specific information on when she should go to the dentist. Is there any standard recommendation for that?

EDIT: In regards to comments about asking my dentist directly, I'm more seeking if there's a standard consensus. The doctor schedule was pretty consistent: 2 days, 1 week, 1 month, 2 month, 6 month, etc. pretty much regardless of whom I asked. I'm curious if things are comparably similar for the dentist.

  • Have you asked your dentist to see what they recommend? – Becuzz Aug 18 '17 at 12:45
  • @Becuzz - I hate to be cynical, but... that's like asking the dentist if they would like more money to put their kids through college! (Isn't it? How many dentists will say, "oh, no, unless they have cavities, I don't want to see your child until their first permanent teeth come in." – anongoodnurse Aug 18 '17 at 13:06
  • @anongoodnurse Is that any different than asking a doctor how often you should bring your baby in to see them? If we are OK with doctor's providing us information on how often we take our kids to see them, why shouldn't we trust dentists to do the same? – Becuzz Aug 18 '17 at 16:34
  • @Becuzz - I wish I possessed some your trust. Babies need to be seen to assess development milestones, state of nutrition, vaccinations, etc. We have good reasons for the schedules in place now. But specialists tend to do what they were trained to do. It happens with doctors, too. I fractured my wrist badly (like, in a lot of pieces.) Had I seen an orthopod, I'd have had plates and screws. I chose a specialty that does not tend to use plates and screws, and saved about $60,000 and all the risks of surgery. Do you have any idea how many kids get braces that don't need them? I could go on... – anongoodnurse Aug 18 '17 at 17:38
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    @anongoodnurse Well, if you have a doctor or dentist who isn't trustworthy, it's probably time to get a new one. If I can't trust them, I don't want them messing with my body (or my kids). – Becuzz Aug 18 '17 at 18:02
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Yes, there is.

The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) suggests that your child see a pediatric dentist when the child reaches the age of one. This is because dental carries (cavities) is the most common disease in children.

The AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians) also changed their policy in 2016 to recommend the first dental visit by 12 months.

I have not looked for the UK recommendation, but I suspect it's similar.

The pros:
- Kids who see a dentist from an early age are less likely to be frightened later.
- Kids who see a dentist from an early age are less likely to have dental caries in deciduous and permanent teeth.

The cons:
- It's expensive.
- Dentists take too many xrays of the mouth, increasing the risk of head and neck cancers significantly. The earlier the xrays, the greater the chance of developing a cancer over one's lifetime.

The only thing that has changed in recent years is that fluoride can be applied to teeth as a treatment now. Since dental carries in deciduous teeth can harm permanent teeth, this is recommended.

Note that what is recommended by pediatric dentists at the first dental visit is something that has been recommended in pediatrician's and FP's offices all along except for the application of fluoride:

During the age 1 dental visit, there is strong emphasis on prevention and parents are given: (1) counseling on infant oral hygiene; (2) home and office-based fluoride therapies; (3) dietary counseling; and (4) information relative to oral habits and dental injury prevention.

Examining the Cost-effectiveness of Early Dental Visits
Factors affecting dental fear in French children aged 5–12 years
Dental x-rays and risk of meningioma
General info from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

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    This seems very US focused - in the UK it is very different: no x-rays unless absolutely necessary, no incentive to sell (as all dental care is free for children) but I agree that early exposure to dentists is a good thing – Rory Alsop Aug 18 '17 at 18:41
  • @RoryAlsop - There is so much that is different in the UK. I wished to see many changes for the better in US medicine (all branches) under our former president, but... the US isn't ready for socialized medicine. – anongoodnurse Aug 21 '17 at 13:54
  • And we're going down the route of privatising all of ours :-( – Rory Alsop Aug 21 '17 at 16:15
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In the pediatric dental office I worked for (and I will mention that between the two dentists we had over 11,000 appointments per year), we recommended that children come in for their first visit about 6 months after their first teeth erupted - usually around 18 months - unless the parents had noticed something dentally that they were concerned about, in which case we would see patients earlier.

At that age, the emphasis is mostly on making sure parents know how to take care of their children's teeth, and what to do if the child sustains a traumatic injury to the teeth (as well as giving them someone to call if that happens - most dentists will not see a patient for the first time as an emergency, you already have to be an established patient). The other purpose is to acclimate the child to having their teeth examined, so they can learn that it isn't scary (and can be fun!)

At our office, we almost never did x-rays on patients under 4 or 5 years old unless there was a reason to do so (such as the child said they were experiencing pain, or the doctor saw something suspicious during the exam). We also did not do actual cleanings on children under 3 (just brushing). So the expense for a child that young should not be much - 2 visits per year at about $60-$70 each (at least until they're old enough for a cleaning). When children are old enough for fluoride/x-rays, the cost does go up significantly, but at least in our office we would only do x-rays once per year, and only billed for fluoride when we had not done x-rays. So it was still usually under $200 per visit.

I definitely think it is worthwhile to establish routine dental care as part of your child's expectations early on (my son loves going to the dentist and sometimes spontaneously asks to go), and it's also really important to have someone with whom your child is familiar (and vice versa) in the event of a dental emergency. That might partly be based on my own experience of not having had that - I fell and broke some teeth when I was a child, and because I had patchy dental care, it wasn't properly treated and developed into an infected maxilla which I then had to deal with long into adulthood. In terms of cost/benefit analysis, I'd say it's definitely worth it. But take the time to find someone you can trust to be good.

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