The American Dental Association’s (ADA) Council on Scientific Affairs recommends parents make sure their children start getting fluoride earlier than ever before – as soon as they get their first tooth.
To help prevent tooth decay in young children, the ADA suggests parents use “a smear” of fluoride toothpaste about the size of a grain of rice for children ages three and younger and a “pea size” amount for children ages three to six years old.
Some “25% of children have or had cavities before entering kindergarten,” so it’s important for parents and caregivers to make sure they use a fluoridated toothpaste to help prevent tooth decay, according to Edmond Truelove, DDS, the ADA’s Council on Scientific Affairs chair.
Fluoride is a mineral that helps make tooth enamel strong enough to fight against tooth decay, which causes cavities. Fluoride occurs naturally in lakes, rivers and oceans and it’s also added to tap water in some communities.
Fluoride in community water is one of the “top 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the ADA, water fluoridation has reduced tooth decay by 20-40%.
If you live in a community that doesn’t have fluoride in its tap water, you and your children may be at greater risk for dental problems. Bottled water generally doesn’t contain fluoride, so it doesn’t help protect teeth enamel. You can contact your local or state health department or water supplier to find out if your tap water contains fluoride.
The ADA also recommends:
- Children should spit out toothpaste as soon as they are old enough to do it. This helps prevent them from getting too much fluoride.
- Caregivers should continue to brush a child’s teeth twice a day, using a child-size toothbrush. Children shouldn’t brush their teeth on their own until they are older.
- You should start flossing your child’s teeth as soon as you see two that touch.
- Parents should take children to the dentist as soon as their first tooth appears or before their first birthday.
Learn more about the importance of fluoride for your teeth.