Unfortunately, new research has shown that few children under the age of 1 are seeing a dentist. This was touched on in an earlier blog post over at http://blog.teethremoval.com/will-health-care-reform-result-in-more-dental-visits/ where it was mentioned that for children between ages 1 and 4 around 60% of them have seen a medical doctor (physician) during the year, but not a dentist. The new research appears in an article titled “Factors Associated With Dental Care Utilization in Early Childhood,” by Denise Darmawikarta and et al. which was published online in Pediatrics in May 2014.
The study looked at 2505 children in Toronto, Canada, who were seen for primary health care between September 2011 and January 2013. The study was past of TARGet Kids (The Applied Research Group for Kids), a collaboration between doctors and researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. The aim of the program is to follow children from birth with the goal of preventing common problems in the early years and understanding how they impact health in later years.
In the study, less than 1% of the healthy urban children looked at received dental care by the age of 12 months and less than 2% of the children received dental care by the age of 24 months. The children in the study who had never been to a dentist were generally of younger age, had longer bottle use, had lower family income, and had a higher daily intake of sweetened drinks. Prolonged nightly bottle use and sweetened drinks were risk factors for caries.
Of the children in the study who saw a dentist, nearly 25% had at least one cavity. In these children, older age, lower family income, and East Asian maternal ancestry were associated with having one or more cavities.
The researchers note that caries can contribute to poor nutritional status and behavioral problems in children. The study in Canada occurs in a country that provides a publicly funded healthcare system but this does not apply to the dental system. Dental care in Canada is provided similarly as in the U.S. as a fee-for-service arrangement in a private practice. The researchers state in their conclusion
“These findings support the need for publicly funded universal early preventive dental care and underscore the importance for primary care physicians to promote dental care in early childhood.”