05/16/2015  |  
Children and Fluoride

The American Dental Association (ADA) recently changed its recommendations for use of fluoride toothpaste in children. While the ADA had previously recommended waiting until a child turns 2 to begin use of fluoride toothpaste, the new recommendations call for brushing all baby teeth as soon as they come in with a smear of fluoride toothpaste on a small brush. Children 3-6 should brush using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste (a change from the prior recommendation of using this amount from age 2).

Why the change? A review conducted by the ADA’s Council on Scientific Affairs confirmed that fluoride is effective in preventing tooth decay — along with all the pain, related health issues, and expense of treatment that comes with it — in children under 6. At the same time, children who swallow pea-sized amounts or more of toothpaste (as many under age 5 do) are at risk for developing mild fluorosis — a white spotting or streaking that can affect the permanent teeth that grow in later. The risk to the front teeth is greatest at age 2. Therefore, making a recommendation is a balancing act between two concerns: protecting children from tooth decay (a disease) and preventing fluorosis (a cosmetic issue that does not affect health).

Brush all baby teeth as soon as they come in with a smear of fluoride toothpaste. Children 3-6 should brush using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.

In reviewing the scientific evidence, the committee determined that the new recommendations would provide the greatest potential benefit with the lowest level of risk. If you have any questions about fluoride use, please ask your dentist.

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