BEND, Ore. -

A smile that shines bright starts with early dental care, but just how early should you take your child to the dentist?

From talking to dentists and parents, I learned most parents are unsure about the right time to take their child to the dentist.

Here's why you should get your kids in now, rather than later, and what it could cost you if you don't.

"Mom, mom, it's a boo boo,” said 2-year-old Bodhi Kranz. “No more teeth. No!"

Kranz recently had his first visit and teeth cleaning.  

"He did awesome,” said Sarah Kranz, Bodhi’s mother. “He was really easy-going and relaxed.”

“I was actually a little bit nervous for sure," said Brittany Beyer, the mother of Adeline Beyer.

Beyer's daughter was on her first visit as well. To help her feel at ease, she watched her older brother get his teeth cleaned first.

So the question you’re dying to have answered; When exactly is the best time to take your child in for a checkup?

"The earlier the better," said Dr. Cate Quas, lead pediatric dentist at Bluefish Dental.  

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry said your child's first visit should be before their first birthday, or within six months of the appearance of their first tooth.

"Seeing the kids early allows you to get the parents on really good habits that allow you to prevent cavities," "Dr. Cate" (her father goes by Dr. Quas) said.

"If a cavity goes into the baby tooth, it can actually progress through the baby tooth and hurt the developing permanent tooth bud," she added.

Starting early also gets kids accustomed to the process.

"You know, my kids actually look forward to it,” Beyer said. “They wait for their dentist appointment. They make it fun, and use really awesome terminology."

Getting a nice prize at the end of your visit helps, too.

"I said I want the ninja,” Garfield said. “I want the blue ninja!"

Bluefish has what they call a "Happy Visit" to get make your child feel comfortable.

"You're getting a child used to some of the things they're going to experience at their next appointment," "Dr. Cate" said.

From the two parents I talked to, their children seem to be doing just fine.

"They get comfortable with it,” Beyer said. “Like my 4-year-old and 6-year-old are completely comfortable with coming here.”

“It seems to be working,” Kranz said. “Both my kids are relaxed with it, so I’m really grateful for that."

"Dr. Cate" said bringing your child in early is invaluable.

"Are you going to eliminate (problems) completely? Probably not,” she said. “Can you reduce some of the complications seeing the kids early? Absolutely."

Her big message to parents is, the longer you wait, the more money you could potentially have to spend on dental care.