The American Dental Association (ADA) has recently changed their recommendations on fluoride use for children in an effort to fight the growing problem of dental decay in America’s youth, according to a recent ADA article. For over 50 years, the Association has recommended fluoride toothpaste as a means to help prevent cavities in adults and older children as several scientific research studies have shown that the mineral is instrumental in improving oral health. In previous years, the ADA’s Council on Scientific Affairs (CSA) has recommended that water be used to brush the teeth of children younger than two, and that a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste be used to brush the teeth of kids ages 2-6. The new guidelines, which have caregivers brushing with fluoride toothpaste as soon as the first tooth emerges, are in response to the growing oral disease epidemic sweeping the nation.
Dental decay has become the most common chronic childhood disease in the United States with over 16 million children suffering from untreated tooth decay, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Studies have found that 25% of kids have or had cavities before entering kindergarten, and oral disease causes them to miss over 51 million combined school hours, and their parents to lose approximately 25 million work hours every year. In an effort to drive these numbers in the right directions, the CSA is now recommending that parents and other caregivers use a smear of fluoride toothpaste for children younger than 3 years old and a pea-sized amount for children aged 3-6. Based on new research, these guidelines are meant to provide optimal protection from cavities while limiting the risk of fluorosis, a condition that causes mild discoloration of teeth that typically appears as faint lines. The ADA also encourages caregivers to begin bi-annual visits to the dentist with their children as soon as the first tooth appears and no later than the child’s first birthday.