AAP recommends earlier use of toothpaste

By: Matt Jacob

Several days ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a recommendation that parents and caregivers begin using fluoride toothpaste for young children as soon as toddlers' teeth appear or "erupt." A child's first tooth becomes visible in the mouth around the age of 6 months. AAP recommends using a smear (or roughly the size of a grain of rice) of fluoride toothpaste for children from tooth eruption through age 2, and families should increase this to a pea-sized amount of toothpaste for children ages 3-6. Until this year, parents weren't advised to start using fluoride toothpaste on their children's teeth until age 2. (The abstract from the clinical report in Pediatrics is available here, but access to the full report requires a subscription.) 

AAP's guidance echoes the recommendations made earlier this year by the American Dental Association. Both organizations pointed to the need to reduce the rate of tooth decay among young children. Rebecca Slayton, a pediatric dentist who is a member of the AAP's executive committee on oral health, told the Washington Post that a recent spike in the rate of tooth decay among children ages 0-5 prompted the organization's recommendation to provide fluoride to kids at an earlier age. "Various national surveys show that we are making progress in some age groups," she said, "but in the younger age groups, we are not."

In addition to using fluoride toothpaste at an earlier age, parents can shape their children's oral health through their choice of beverages. Although water is the healthiest choice, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health experts are raising awareness that most brands of bottled water sold in the U.S. lack sufficient fluoride to prevent tooth decay. Families who live in communities with fluoridated water are encouraged to have their children consume tap water. 

If you're wondering what a "smear" and a pea-sized amount of toothpaste look like on a child's toothbrush, check out this photo.

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Children with poor oral health were nearly 3x more likely to miss school due to dental pain.
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