A lot of parents want to know “is fluoride bad for toddlers“?
Following a change in guidelines from the American Dental Association a few years ago, the question whether fluoride toothpaste is safe for young children continues to circulate among parents and dentists.
For years, the ADA recommended that parents wait until age 2 to start using fluoride toothpaste with their children. However, that recommendation changed in February 2014, when the organization said parents can begin using a “smear” of fluoride toothpaste as soon as teeth begin to show.
Why would the ADA change its mind after decades of a standard policy? What does it mean for your children?
Is Fluoride Bad for Toddlers?
A Little Background on Fluoride
Fluoride is an effective way to prevent and even reverse the early signs of tooth decay. It makes the tooth structure stronger, so teeth are more resistant to acid attacks.
Many of us take in fluoride naturally through the water we drink, but not all parts of the country require that fluoride be part of the drinking water, and more and more families are choosing bottled water, which in most cases does not contain fluoride like tap water does.
Groups like ADA have long recommended brushing teeth and seeing a dentist as early as age 1, but parents tend to be undereducated in this area or they give in to toddlers who do not like brushing their teeth.
New Research on Fluoride
The 2014 change by the American Dental Association brought its recommendation in line with the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, which has long suggested the use of fluoride toothpaste as soon as teeth begin to show.
The change also came after research showing an increase in cavities among preschool age children noted by the Centers for Disease Control. In some cases, the problem was so bad that children needed to be placed under general anesthesia to have cavities filled in half of their baby teeth or more.
The hope is that introducing fluoride toothpaste into the equation earlier will help reduce the number of cavities in young children. The ADA recommends that children spit out the toothpaste after it’s applied to their teeth to avoid developing fluorosis, a condition that results in a tooth’s enamel changing color due to too much fluoride exposure. Of course, this is easier said than done with a small child. Starting early and reinforcing good habits will help put them on a path toward success.
In some cases fluoride exposure has also been linked to ADHD and other neurological conditions when too much of it is ingested. Swallowing toothpaste here and there is not a big deal, but over time it could lead to more serious problems if the habit is not corrected.
What’s Best for Your Child
Still wondering “is fluoride bad for toddlers“? Even though baby teeth do eventually come out, it can be years before that happens so it’s important to get cavities taken care of at a young age. The pain associated with cavities can often be mistaken for teething; don’t let that deter you from taking your child to a dentist as soon as he or she starts talking about any kind of mouth pain.
As far as fluoride, the key is finding the right balance between getting your child enough of it to prevent tooth decay and using so much that it puts him or her at risk for other issues.
Before deciding on whether to start using fluoride toothpaste, you should understand how much fluoride your child is already getting. Do you have it in your drinking water? If you don’t know the answer to that question, a water test or call to your local water authority can help you find it.
Diet is another factor to consider. If your child enjoys soda or other sugary snacks, a little extra fluoride may be necessary to combat the effects sugar can have on young teeth.
If you are still in doubt, be sure to ask your dentist at your next checkup. Your dentist will examine your child’s teeth and take into consideration environmental factors before making an informed decision about whether you should begin using fluoride toothpaste with your toddler.