For decades, the teeth of children in America have been getting stronger and more resistant to decay, until recently. Repairing dental decay in children was one of the mainstays of dentistry until the turn of the century. With the advent of fluoridated water and toothpaste, better dental care, and parents ensuring good dental hygiene, the age of cavities in children’s teeth was rapidly coming to a close. I remember just 20 years ago, hearing my pediatric dental colleagues complaining they had nothing to do without children getting cavities. They were either morphing into orthodontists or going out of business.
But here we go again. In the past ten years, dentists have begun to notice an uptick in the number of children with cavities, enough so, that the American Dental Association recently began recommending topical fluoride toothpaste be used in children under age three years of age. Prior to this new recommendation, fluoride toothpaste was forbidden for young children because of the fear that they would get too much fluoride in the enamel of their teeth, a condition known as fluorosis. Fluoride toothpastes have a lot of fluoride and if a young child eats the toothpaste, this can overload their teeth with this mineral, turning their teeth to a brown color. But experts have recently decided that a very small amount of fluoride toothpaste topically put on a young child’ s teeth is very unlikely to cause fluorosis and very likely to make dental decay more unlikely in children.
So the great fluoride debate continues, with the pendulum swinging back toward limited topical fluoride use as soon as a child’s teeth erupt. But I have a better idea. I believe that if parents would eliminate almost all snacks, give their children water instead of any juices (even diluted) or sugary drinks, and stop giving them gummy and other sugar containing vitamins, dental decay would again, disappear. I believe if these things happened, we wouldn’t be having the need for this new ADA recommendation. But what do I know?
I welcome your comments on my blog, www.docsmo.com. If you have dental stories or other ideas how to improve our children’s dental health, fire away. Join the conversation. If you are a pediatric dentist, please give us your perspective. Until next time.