The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has always recommended to have parents help brush the teeth of their children as soon as teeth begin to appear in the mouth. Flouridated toothpaste is recommended in small amounts in young children in order to help minimize the amount they may swallow when you brush their teeth.
Up until age 3, children should only have a taste of toothpaste on their toothbrush, typically a smear (the size of a grain of rice). After age 3, a pea-sized amount may be used. Parents should be the one to supervise the amount of toothpaste on their child’s toothbrush and shouldn’t allow them to be in charge until the appropriate age of responsibility.
Dental office fluoride application can beginning at the time teeth appear, fluoride varnish should be applied by doctors or dentists every 3 to 6 months, according to the AAP and if the child is old enough not to swallow any of the fluoride being applied. They is determined as the hygienist is cleaning their teeth and is able to determine if the child swallows too regularly or is able to hold an amount of saliva in their mouth without swallowing.
I have been asked by patients about applying over-the-counter fluoride rinses like ACT etc. to their children’s teeth at home. The AAP and I do not recommended any over-the-counter products for children younger than 6 years, due to the risk that they may swallow more than the recommended levels of fluoride.
According to the AAP, “tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in American children, and fluoride is effective in preventing cavities in children”.