Fluoride Action Network

Fluoride fights tooth decay in your youngest kids, AAP says

Source: health.ClevelandClinic.org | September 12th, 2014 | By Emma Raizman, MD

Researchers say you should start flouride [sic] with baby’s first teeth

Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children, but the good news is that it also preventable. Researchers at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) say using fluoride toothpaste, even as teeth are first emerging, is key to stopping cavities from forming.

AAP recently released new guidelines for parents to follow when directing children of different ages with brushing their teeth. They published the findings in Pediatrics.

Their newest recommendation is for parents to use fluoride toothpaste for babies. You want to use a very limited amount — just a smudge — as the first teeth come in. So, even when those first two teeth pop in, on the bottom and the first two on the top, parents should start using toothpaste right on the teeth.

Recommendations for fluoride use by age

Here’s a summary of the AAP recommendations for children of different ages:

  • For children under age 3 (babies and toddlers as their teeth begin to come in), use a dab of fluorinated toothpaste the size of a grain of rice.
  • After age 3, your children should use a pea-sized amount of fluorinated toothpaste. Supervise them to prevent them from swallowing toothpaste. I don’t recommend giving them water to rinse with unless you are confident they know how to rinse with it. The natural instinct can be to simply drink the water rather than spit it out.
  • For kids under age 6, researchers do not recommend over-the-counter fluoride rinses. If your child swallows the rinse, they could ingest higher-than-recommended levels of fluoride. (If your child isn’t really able to rinse at age 6, you can just wait until they are a little older – age 7 or 8. But at whatever age they can actually swish it around and then spit it out, that’s when you want to start.)
  • Fluoride varnish is recommended every 3 to 6 months, starting as teeth emerge.

Why fluoride matters

Following these recommendations is critical because early childhood tooth decay is the single greatest risk factor for cavities in your child’s permanent teeth. The researchers found that as many as 59 percent of 12- to 19-year-olds have at least one documented cavity. However, fluoride toothpaste reduces tooth decay in children by 15 – 30 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

There are some risks of fluoride use, such as fluorosis. The majority of cases in the U.S. are mild and involve striations and opaque areas on the teeth. The risk for developing fluorosis mostly passes by age 8.

The new guidelines help give parents a way to start earlier to reduce risk for tooth decay later. Help your children take care of their the teeth early and as they get older, reinforce the importance of brushing after meals. These good habits will stay with them.