Toothbrush

Dental decay is the most common chronic childhood disease.

More than 16 million children in the U.S. alone suffer from untreated tooth decay, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As more and more children develop cavities, new advice is being offered to those who care for young children’s emerging and established teeth.

The American Dental Association’s Council on Scientific Affairs (CSA), has updated its dental-care guidelines for caregivers. While it was once recommended to use only water or a nonfluoride toothpaste to clean teeth of the very young, the CSA now recommends the use of fluoride toothpaste even for young children. Parents and other caregivers should brush their kids’ teeth with fluoride toothpaste as soon as the first tooth comes in.

“Approximately 25 percent of children have or had cavities before entering kindergarten, so it’s important to provide guidance to caregivers on the appropriate use of fluoride toothpaste to help prevent their children from developing cavities,” said CSA Chairman Edmond L. Truelove, D.D.S. 

The CSA recommends that caregivers use a smear of fluoride toothpaste (or an amount about the size of a grain of rice) for children younger than three years old and a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste for children between the ages of three and six years old. The updated guidelines are intended to provide children with the full benefit of cavity protection, while limiting their risk of developing fluorosis, which is a mild discoloration of teeth usually appearing as faint lines. The CSA found that these guidelines help to prevent cavities and is less likely to cause fluorosis. Children should spit out toothpaste as soon as they are old enough to do so.

Caregivers also are urged to take their children to the dentist when the first tooth erupts or no later than a child’s first birthday. Semiannual or annual visits thereafter should be the norm, or as directed by a dentist.

Oral healthcare is important for people of all ages. To learn more about preventative oral care, visit www.ada.org.

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