Is Fluoride Toothpaste Safe For Babies?

New ADA recommendations suggest brushing your infant's baby teeth with a smear of fluoride toothpaste.

New ADA recommendations suggest brushing your infant’s baby teeth with a “smear” of fluoride toothpaste.

The short answer is yes – as soon as you can see your child’s first tooth.

Historically, the American Dental Association (ADA) advised caregivers to brush their baby’s teeth with water and wait to use fluoride toothpaste until age 2. However, the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs recently updated their recommendation.

Instead of waiting until age two to brush your child’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste, the ADA and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry now recommend brushing twice a day and placing a “smear” of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice) on your child’s brush as soon as the baby teeth start to erupt (about age 6 months). When your child is about 2 or 3, you can move up to pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste.

Why make this change?
Dentists want to slow the rate of tooth decay in young children. Cavities are nearly 100 percent preventable, but are still occurring in children’s mouths in alarming numbers. Cavities are the most common chronic disease of children ages 6-11 years and adolescents up to age 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dental disease is painful. Children lose 51 million school hours annually due to oral disease, and parents lose 25 million work hours as a result. Dental disease also “disproportionately affects children from low-income families” and these children “have almost twice the number of decayed teeth that have not been treated by a dentist,” according to the ADA.

Keep in mind that children should spit out the fluoride toothpaste, rather than swallow it. The ADA also encourages caregivers to take their child to the dentist when the first tooth appears or not later than the child’s first birthday.

For more information, read the ADA’s revised recommendation in the February 2014 issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association.

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