Tooth decay, if left untreated can have a serious impact on a child’s health and well-being. It can cause pain and infections which can affect a child’s ability to eat, speak, play, and learn (CDC).

Routine dental visits and recommended dental care is important for children, however taking a child to their routine dental visit can be a challenge for some parents and caregivers. Here are a few barriers:

  • A child’s and parent’s anxiety of seeing the dentist.
  • A parent’s work schedule.
  • Finding a local dentist parents and caregivers can trust with their child’s dental care.
  • Lack of transportation.
  • Cost of dental services.

Some parents may even delay taking their child to the dentist at an early age thinking baby teeth will fall out eventually. They may not be aware of how important it is to keep baby teeth in good health, as they are a guide for adult teeth.

Establishing a dental home early can help prevent tooth decay in children by receiving preventive and routine dental care. Parents and caregivers can also receive proper dental care guidance for their children’s age. Moreover, it helps build a positive relationship between families and dental staff.

What is a dental home?

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), a dental home is inclusive of all aspects of oral health care delivered in a complete, accessible, coordinated, and family-centered way:

  • Complete – Preventive and full dental care services in one place.
  • Accessible – Dental care services provided in the child’s community. The dental home is close to home and easy to get to.
  • Coordinated – Families are provided with referrals to dental specialists when needed and linked to community services.
  • Family-centered – Families and dental staff work together in the best interest of the child and family. The dental home meets the child’s and family’s oral health needs.

Why is a dental home beneficial for my family?

Establishing a dental home can build a trusting relationship between the dental team, child, family, and/or caregiver. It can lessen anxiety when seeing the dentist. A child who is taken to their dental visits from an early age is more likely to feel comfortable being seen by the dentist than a child that begins their routine visits at a later age.

Having a dental home helps families save money. Dental treatment can be costly. Tooth decay in infants, young children, and school-age children is preventable. Preventive dental visits at an early age can teach children the importance of oral health which can carry on as they grow into teens and adults.

If your child has special needs, it is important to find a dental home that will provide specialized dental care and guidance to help your child as they grow.

When is the best time to establish a dental home?

The ADA recommends establishing a dental home for children no later than 12 months of age. Waiting for a child to be older may be too late, resulting in dental treatment during the first visit. Some families have begun to discuss a dental home with their dental provider during their pregnancy and post-partum dental visits.

How to choose a dental home?

Choosing a dental home that you can trust a dental team with your child’s oral health is an important decision. A dental office that can provide you with a safe and comfortable place for regular visits, dental procedures, or a dental emergency is a great place to start. Here are a few basics to consider when selecting a dental home from the ADA.

  • Find a dental home you and your child are happy with. Choose a dental home that provides caring and friendly service. Select a home where the dental team can explain ways to help you prevent dental health problems and provide dental care instruction in a courteous, helpful manner. You can inquire if translation or interpreter services are offered, if needed.
  • Choose a dental home with convenient office ours. Some dental offices offer extended hours and weekend appointments to help families meet their dental care needs.
  • Choose a dental home that accepts your dental plan. If you have dental benefits, make sure the dentist is in your network. If you do not have dental benefits or have trouble affording dental services, visit a community dental/health center. These centers provide quality dental care for persons who have Medi-Cal, other insurance, are uninsured, or cannot afford care. Click here for a list of community health centers in Orange County. Click here to find a Medi-Cal Dental Provider near you.
  • Check with a trusted friend or relative. Many people trust a referral to a dental home from a friend or family member that has experienced a positive dental visit. If a friend says she loves her dental home, check them out!

Related resources.


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