Many parents want to know if fluoride is safe for young children. For years the American Dental Association suggested fluoride use strictly for toddlers age two and up. However, in 2014 the recommendation changed, stating that parents may use just a smidgeon of fluoride toothpaste once teeth begin to erupt.
Why the sudden change after decades of enforcing such a well-established safety standard? How will this shift in policy affect your toddler? Is fluoride bad for kids under 2, or not?
Fluoride treatment is a tried and true method of preventing cavities and reversing early signs of decay. The natural compound strengthens the tooth structure making it more resistant to harmful mouth acid.
Most of us have access to fluoridated drinking water, but it is not available in all parts of the country. In addition, many families today purchase bottled water, which is usually not supplemented with fluoride.
The 2014 ADA change aligned with what the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry had long been advocating, fluoride use once teeth are visible. Research at the time showed an increase in cavities among toddlers noted by the CDC. Some preschoolers had to go under general anesthesia to have half or more of their primary teeth filled.
By introducing fluoride toothpaste earlier, the hope is to reduce the number of cavities in preschoolers. Young children are encouraged to spit out toothpaste after the application to avoid fluorosis. This is a damaging condition that alters the color of tooth enamel.
Fluoride exposure at an early age has been linked to neurological conditions like ADHD when excessive amounts are ingested. There is no harm in swallowing fluoridated toothpaste now and then, but a repeated habit can lead to serious problems.
Even though primary teeth fall out eventually, they first serve a purpose for several years. It is important to care for baby teeth properly and take steps to avoid decay. Sometimes cavity pain can be mistaken for breaking in a new tooth during the early years.
As for fluoride, the key is using enough to protect your toddler’s oral health and not so much that it puts your child at risk for other problems. Before you start your youngster on fluoride toothpaste, first determine if he or she is getting it from your tap water.
You can check with your local water authority or check with your dentist. During your child’s next routine checkup, your dentist can exam your toddler’s teeth and consider all factors before deciding if fluoride toothpaste is the right course of action.