Objective: To examine associations between childhood dental visits and attitudes and beliefs about dental care, and oral health as measured during adulthood. Methods: The data were taken from the Florida Dental Care Study (FDCS), a prospective longitudinal study of oral health and dental care, among 683 adults 45 years of age and older who answered questions about early dental history at the 54-month follow-up interview. Results: Fifty-nine per cent (n = 400) reported having had a dental visit before 18 years of age. Of those with a childhood visit, 72% reported that the first dental visit was a negative experience. Having a childhood dental visit was associated with several positive attitudes and beliefs about dental care. In addition, having early experiences with a dentist was associated with preventive and restorative dental visits and several objective and subjective measures of oral health. Having a negative childhood experience was associated with only one of the adult dental attitude and beliefs subscales, and none of the oral health behaviours. Conclusions: Our data suggest that the socialisation associated with early dental visits may occur even though the experience may have been painful or frightening. Although this study design precluded direct inference about causation, these findings do support the utility of further investigations into possible causative linkages between childhood dental experiences and adult attitudinal and dental health outcomes. © 2005 FDI/World Dental Press.