New research suggests children benefit from early dental visits

It may benefit children to see a dentist before age 4, a study published in Pediatric Dentistry revealed.

The study, "Do Early Dental Visits Reduce Treatment and Treatment Costs for Children?" which appears in the November/December edition of the journal, offers evidence that early intervention efforts in oral health are both clinically effective and cost effective, according to researchers.

"The takeaway message is early intervention does work," said Dr. Arthur J. Nowak, lead study author and a professor emeritus at the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Iowa.

Researchers examined a year’s worth of billing data for 42,532 children aged 0 to 7 from 20 corporate treatment centers serving children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. About 40 percent of those children were early starters, or had seen a dentist before age 4, while the rest were late starters, having seen a dentist for the first time at or after age 4.

The data showed that late starters had 3.58 more dental procedures done and spent $360 more during eight years of follow up than the early starters. Consumers can find recommendations for dental care for children and infants from the American Dental Association at MouthHealthy.org, which provides news and information to help consumers make decisions about their oral health. Information includes when to first take one’s child to see a dentist, which the ADA recommends occur no later than a child’s first birthday — ideally within six months after the first tooth appears.

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