(CBS News) -- Dentists are now recommending fluoride toothpaste for kids earlier than ever -- as soon as a baby’s first tooth comes in.
Previously, the American Dental Association (ADA) had recommended kids younger than 2 years old have their teeth brushed with water, before moving onto a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste through the time they’re 6 years old.
Now, the ADA says go ahead and give your baby a tiny dollop of fluoride toothpaste that’s about the size of a grain of rice once that first tooth comes in.
“Approximately 25 percent of children have or had cavities before entering kindergarten, so it’s important to provide guidance to caregivers on the appropriate use of fluoride toothpaste to help prevent their children from developing cavities,” Dr. Edmond L. Truelove, chair of the ADA’s Council on Scientific Affairs, said in a press release.
The recommendation change comes after a new review published in the February issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association found that brushing with fluoride toothpaste had statistically significant benefits on preventing decay and cavities. They did find some evidence ingesting pea-sized amounts can lead to a condition called dental fluorosis in some kids, which is when staining or changes in the color of the tooth’s enamel occurs when children age 8 and younger consume too much fluoride.
The new guidance says kids younger than 3 should just get a “smear” of toothpaste before graduating to a pea-sized amount when 3 to 6 years old to prevent cavities and avoid fluorosis. Kids should spit out the toothpaste as soon as they are old enough to do so.
More than 16 million U.S. kids have untreated tooth decay, the ADA says, causing them and their parents to miss millions of hours of school and work cumulatively.
A 2012 report from the New York Times found upticks in rates of preschool-aged children coming to dentists with multiple cavities, sometimes more than 15 at a time.
“Not having the fluoride, you would be more susceptible to decay as the teeth wear down and lose their certain minerals,” New York City-based pediatric dentist Dr. Mark Hockberg, told CBS News.