Parents - start your kids on fluoride at an early age, AAP says


Fluoride, fluoride everywhere, or at least it will be if the dentists have their way.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that children begin using toothpaste with fluoride in it from the time their teeth begin to appear and independent of cavity risk.

According to the regulations published in Pediatrics, children under 3 should use a rice-grain size amount of toothpaste, and then a pea-sized amount after the age of 3. Additionally, fluoride varnish should be applied by doctors or dentists two to four times a year.

The report, written by Drs. Melinda Clark and Rebecca Slayton, does not recommend that children under 6 use over-the-counter fluoride rinses out of fear that children may accidently swallow more than is recommended, and too much fluoride is toxic.

Fluoride has been associated with strengthening teeth and preventing cavities since 1945 when the scientists found that people who lived in areas with higher amounts of fluoride in their water had fewer cavities.  

According to the American Dental Association, the addition of fluoride to community water supply has been the most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay.  

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has proclaimed community water fluoridation as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century," said the report.

Currently about 74.6 percent of the US population receive the benefit of optimally fluoridated water.

Although the AAP has endorsed fluoride-use guidelines from the CDC, this is the first time it has published its own recommendations.

Fluoride, however, does come with some risks, one of the most common being fluorosis, which has increased in prevalence over the last 20 years. It currently affects about 41 percent of the US population.

Fluorosis usually involves clinically insignificant striations and opaque areas, but in more severe cases, it can cause weakened groove anatomy and other symptoms in permanent molars. However, the risk of fluorosis generally decreases sharply after 8 years of age.  

Studies spanning a time frame of nearly 70 years have consistently recorded the safety and benefit of water with fluoride. Even now, studies have shown that fluoridation reduces tooth decay by 25 percent even in a time period where fluoride is available from several other sources. 

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