Toothpaste with Fluoride a Plus for Pediatric Patients

By: Dr. Arun K. Garg

 

With a new school year already underway in the South and the academic calendar only days away up North, the American Academy of Pediatrics released new recommendations on when young children should begin brushing their teeth with fluoride toothpaste.

Like a homework assignment for children’s mouths, fluoride-enhanced brushing should begin as soon as deciduous teeth (baby teeth) come into place. Over-the-counter fluoride treatments, however, are not recommended for children younger than six. That’s because of lingering fears younger children will swallow too much of the fluoride mineral – a natural substance that in proper doses strengthens tooth enamel, reducing the risk of cavities. Too much consumed fluoride can lead to a teeth-discoloring condition known as fluorosis.

The findings were published earlier this week online in the journal Pediatrics.

Considering that tooth decay is one of the most common chronic diseases in children – some 17 million children in the U.S. don’t visit the dentist for annual checkups resulting in the loss of more than 51 million school hours – the start of a new school year is an excellent time to lay down some new oral health family rules.

As a dentist with clinics throughout South Florida, it’s disturbing enough to see adults and the elderly with tooth decay and edentulous gaps in their upper and lower jaws. But it’s particularly disturbing when I see patients in their most formative years coming into my office with the same problems. For children, the ability to visit the dentist is beyond their control. And without proper at-home guidance from parents or guardians, their between-visit dental care will suffer too.

The United States, by many measures one of the world’s wealthiest nations, with the highest standards of living, should not be in the throws of such a pediatric oral crisis. Admittedly, national generalizations mask a problem with deep roots. Nearly half of Americans lack dental insurance, including 20 million children. For millions of Americans having to choose between a dental checkup and food on their table, the decision is obvious.

But even if underprivileged children can’t visit the dentist with the frequency clinicians recommend, they can at least be encouraged to do a better job brushing at home. I applaud the AAP for its latest recommendations and hope parents use the new information as a springboard to get their children’s school year off right!