As parents, we want to do what’s best for our kids—things like helping with homework, taking them out to play, and tucking them in at night. Making sure they stay healthy through childhood (and beyond) is another way to show how much we care. When it comes to a child’s dental health, most parents understand that brushing with fluoride toothpaste is a proven way to help kids fight cavities—the number one chronic disease in children. But many aren’t sure about the specifics: when to start brushing, how much toothpaste to use, and whether fluoride is OK for tots.
It’s understandable that parents might be confused. We know that fluoride helps prevent tooth decay—yet getting too much fluoride can cause enamel fluorosis, a cosmetic condition which causes a mottled appearance of teeth. So, until recently, different dental groups and product labels told slightly different stories. Now, the American Dental Association (ADA) has issued revised guidelines based on a systematic review of medical research.
These new recommendations are consistent and easy to understand: As soon as baby teeth appear, parents should brush those tiny teeth twice daily with a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste—about the size of a grain of rice. Later—at age 3 to 6—the amount of toothpaste can be increased to a pea-sized dab.
The new guidelines are based on a compelling report published in the prestigious Journal of the American Dental Association, which reviewed 17 previous studies. Its conclusion, based on the scientific evidence presented, was straightforward: Fluoride toothpaste is indeed effective at controlling tooth decay in kids—and an appropriate amount should be used to clean children’s teeth at all ages.
This advice may be especially timely, given some current trends. For one thing, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently noted an increase in the number of preschoolers with cavities—the first such increase in four decades. Anecdotal evidence from dentists around the country seems to support this conclusion, with reports of more children needing more extensive dental procedures than ever before. At the same time, many researchers (and concerned parents) are also looking at the amount of sugar added to prepared foods, and its potentially harmful effects on our health—and that of our children.
So, just to make it clear, here are the current ADA recommendations for brushing your kids’ teeth:
* As soon as baby teeth first appear, start gently brushing them twice daily with a soft brush
* Use a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice—this amount is small enough to cause no harm, even if it isn’t spit out
* Bring children in for their first dental checkup when those teeth appear—but no later than age one. Cavity risk assessment and prevention can—and should—start early!
* At around age three, increase the amount of fluoride toothpaste to a pea-sized portion. Get them to spit it out when brushing is over
* Train kids to brush by themselves as much as possible, but supervise them until around age 7-9; if they can’t yet tie their shoes, they may not be able to brush properly either
* Reduce the amount of sugary foods and drinks they consume, and limit between-meal snacking to healthier choices, like fruits, cheese or yogurt
Starting kids on the road to good health is one of the most important things a parent can do. By following these guidelines, you can help ensure that your kids will have bright smiles for their whole lives. To learn more call one of our :DP AtYourService Customer Care Representatives at 1-800-238-5163.