Fluoride toothpastes should be used by children who still have their first set of teeth, a pediatricians group announced.
The American Academy of Pediatrics said children's teeth should be brushed with toothpaste containing fluoride from the time they first appear.
Toddlers three years of age and younger should be provided with an extremely small amount of toothpaste, roughly the size of a grain of rice. After age three, that amount should be increased to the size of a pea, according to AAP recommendations. Children should also be instructed not to rinse, as water can wash away fluoride still left on teeth that would otherwise fight tooth decay. Children under six years old should not be provided with fluoride mouth rinses, according to the group, since they could swallow the liquid.
Fluoride polishes should be applied by a doctor or dentist every three to six months, the group recommends. Many young children do not receive regular dental care, which can lead to cavities at a young age. The problem is especially common among low-income families and minorities.
"Community water fluoridation, which prevents tooth decay through the provision of low levels of fluoride exposure to the teeth over time, provides topical and systemic exposure... Yet more than 70 million Americans on public water systems have no access to fluoridated water," AAP researchers wrote in the report.
Water supplied to two out of three Americans on public systems contains fluoride, a practice which began in 1945. After researchers noticed that residents of areas with naturally-high levels of fluoride in their water formed fewer cavities, the chemical was added to many public water systems.
Fluoride supplements are available for people who live in areas where the chemical is not present in water.
Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease affecting American children. The report suggested that pediatricians encourage parents to use fluoride toothpastes on the teeth of their children, in an effort to combat tooth decay.
The AAP reports that 59 percent of teenagers in the United States have at least one cavity.
Fluorosis, a cosmetic condition leading to streak and pitting of teeth, is a possible effect of excessive exposure to fluoride. Concentrations of fluoride are unlikely to become high enough to cause a serious health risk, even if the chemical is consumed from numerous sources, researchers stated. Children between the ages of 15 and 30 months are most prone to this condition.
Study of the role of fluoride on the dental health of children with their first set of teeth was profiled in the journal Pediatrics.