Flouride Toothpaste for Children Under Three
Last night, I was brushing my daughters teeth with a non-flouridated toothpaste. She clearly enjoyed the taste of her “sesame street toothpaste” but I wondered, why no flouride?
I remember learning that too much flouride can cause “fluorosis” in young children (Dental fluorosis is a change in the appearance of the tooth’s enamel surface. The most common types do no affect the function of the tooth and don’t cause pain). But, flouride is also super important in preventing cavities, so I decided to do some research…
For decades, the American Dental Association (ADA) suggested parents wait until children reached the age of three before using fluoridated toothpaste to care for the little ones’ teeth.
That resolution changed in February of 2014, with the new recommendation that parents begin using what the ADA calls a “smear” of toothpaste as soon as children’s teeth begin to emerge – effectively, below the age of three.
So why the change, and what more should you know?
Fifty years of research has proven fluoride’s effectiveness in preventing cavities, and a recent review of scientific evidence by the ADA’s Council on Scientific Affairs (CSA) prompted the restructuring of advice.
Today, with 25 percent of children experiencing cavities before kindergarten, the ADA believes a more prompt fluoride-supported approach can be beneficial.
The New Guidelines
The new instructions are intended to provide children with the full benefit of cavity protection while limiting their risk of developing fluorosis (a mild discoloration of teeth usually appearing as faint lines).
Based on a systematic review of the evidence, the CSA concluded that using just a “smear” of toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice) for children younger than 3 years old, and a pea-size amount for children 3 to 6 years, helps prevent cavities. It’s also less likely to cause fluorosis.
It’s important to note that children should spit out toothpaste as soon as they are old enough to do so.
Health guidelines are constantly in flux, so remain informed by maintaining regular contact with your dental health care team, and stay healthy!