ADA Recommends Fluoride Toothpaste for Children under 3

Are you responsible for brushing your child’s teeth? For decades, the American Dental Association (ADA) suggested parents wait until children reached the age of three before using fluoridated toothpaste to care for their teeth. That resolution changed in February of 2014, with the new recommendation that parents begin using what the ADA calls a “smear” of toothpaste on the teeth of children as soon as their teeth begin to emerge – effectively, below the age of three. So why the change, and what more should you know? 

Why the Change?

Fifty years of research has proven fluoride’s effectiveness in preventing cavities, and a recent review of scientific evidence by the ADA’s Council on Scientific Affairs (CSA) prompted the restructuring of advice. Today, with 25 percent of children experiencing cavities before kindergarten, the ADA believes a more prompt fluoride-supported approach can be beneficial.

The New Guidelines

The new guidance is intended to provide children with the full benefit of cavity protection while limiting their risk of developing fluorosis (a mild discoloration of teeth usually appearing as faint lines). Based on a systematic review of the evidence, CSA concluded that using just a "smear" of toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice) for children younger than 3 years old and a pea-size amount for children 3 to 6 years helps prevent cavities and is less likely to cause fluorosis. Children should spit out toothpaste as soon as they are old enough to do so.
Health guidelines are constantly in flux, so stay informed by maintaining regular contact with your dental health care team, and stay healthy!