This is one of the most frequently asked questions which I encounter. My answer is my opinion combined with the opinion of various dental associations and studies. They feel that children should visit the dentist within six months of the arrival of the first tooth or at about one year old or earlier. I think that this is bit early unless parents see obvious discoloration or something unusual in the child’s mouth. It is a good idea to expose a child to the dentist/hygienist at about 18 months old even if they are not ready or willing to have a cleaning or x-rays at that point. The dentist can take a look to see if anything is obviously wrong and can count the teeth and provide the child with a “fun” visit. It is not a good idea for the parent to scare or “warn” the child about what is going to happen, but rather to help make the experience a positive one from the outset, which will hopefully set the tone for a lifetime.
Surveys and studies have shown that most children first see a dentist between the ages of 3 and 4, which is often too late to catch small issues which can become more major problems. One parent recently told me that they were advised not to bring their son to the dental office until his permanent teeth were erupted. This is obviously too late. For the record, my own daughter was first seen at our office at about 18 months. Now at 3½ she has no fear, enjoys having her teeth cleaned and choosing a toy from the treasure chest afterword. Children who have a positive introduction to the dental office see their visits as an adventure and look forward to them.