Doctors should give toddlers fluoride treatments: US task force

May 6, 2014 by Steven Reinberg, Healthday Reporter
Doctors should give toddlers fluoride treatments: U.S. task force
Expert panel says primary care physicians should help in effort to prevent cavities in young children.

(HealthDay)—Primary care doctors should start playing a more prominent role in dental care for children, according to new recommendations from the influential U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

Specifically, the task force suggested Monday that primary care physicians prescribe oral supplementation, such as drops, tablets or lozenges, for children 6 months and older whose water supply doesn't have enough fluoride.

"In addition, we are recommending that infants and children should have fluoride varnish applied to their teeth when baby teeth appear, and that primary care clinicians can do that," said task force chairman Dr. Michael LeFevre.

"That should be a part of routine well-child care," he added.

LeFevre said that while some primary care doctors are already doing that, most of them aren't. "It's not something most parents would expect from a well-child visit, and it's not something that most primary care providers are including in well-child visits," he said.

Most doctors incorrectly assume that children are seeing a dentist, LeFevre said. "The problem is that three out of four preschool-aged kids do not visit a dentist," he added.

But most children do see a primary care doctor, he noted. "So, there is a missed opportunity here for a significant number of kids who could benefit, in terms of preventing ," he said.

Tooth decay is a significant health problem for children, LeFevre noted. "Applying fluoride varnish is something that primary care clinicians can do. It's not complicated and this is a way can help the dentist in terms of preventing tooth decay," he said.

Fluoride varnish should be applied whether the local water supply has sufficient fluoride or not, LeFevre said. "Studies show that application of the varnish, even when the water is fluoridated, helps to prevent tooth decay," he said.

LeFevre believes parents should be asking their doctor to coat their children's teeth with fluoride.

According to the task force, even very young children can develop tooth decay. Almost half of children aged 2 to 11 have cavities in their baby teeth, they noted.

The task force is an independent panel of experts that researches and makes recommendations on preventive health care. Their newest recommendations, which were published online May 5 in Pediatrics, are in concert with guidelines issued by the American Dental Association (ADA) last February.

The updated ADA guidelines state that children should begin using toothpaste with fluoride as soon as they get their first tooth. Before that, parents had been told to use water to brush the teeth of children younger than 2 and to use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste for children aged 2 to 6.

Dr. Rosie Roldan, director of the Pediatric Dental Center at Miami Children's Hospital, said these recommendations are fine as long as they are part of overall dental care, which includes referrals to a dentist.

Parents look for guidance from their doctor, she noted, but doctors should be referring them to a dentist.

"Application of fluoride just for the sake of doing it doesn't do anybody any good. If the pediatrician understands the process of getting the child to a dentist, then applying fluoride is a good idea," Roldan said. "This can get the patient some preventive care until they can get to a dentist."

According to the task force, there is not enough evidence to say whether regular screening for tooth decay in aged 5 and younger will improve their future health. So the is not able to recommend for or against such screening.

Explore further: Primary care docs should play role in kids' dental health, experts say

More information: Visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine for more on children's dental health.

Related Stories

Primary care docs should play role in kids' dental health, experts say

May 21, 2013
(HealthDay)—When it comes to the care of your children's teeth, dentists aren't the only experts who can help.

Dentists' group expands recommended use of fluoride toothpaste for kids

February 11, 2014
(HealthDay)—Children should begin using toothpaste with fluoride as soon as they get their first tooth, according to updated American Dental Association (ADA) guidelines.

Fluoride treatments may help fight cavities

November 1, 2013
(HealthDay)—Applying prescription-strength fluoride directly to the teeth can benefit patients at increased risk for cavities, a new expert panel concludes.

From one generation to the next, dental care changes

May 18, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Stephanie Crowe, a mother of three from Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., still remembers dreading a visit to the dentist as a young girl. It was often a painful experience, and her family's dentist showed little empathy ...

Early dental care can help keep kids smiling for years to come

February 10, 2013
(HealthDay)—Every baby has a beautiful smile, and to keep it that way, parents should teach good dental habits at an early age, experts say.

Few children receive dental care before recommended age of one year

May 5, 2014
Less than one per cent of healthy urban children surveyed in Toronto had received dental care by the recommended age of 12 months and less than two per cent had seen a dentist by the age of 24 months. Children most susceptible ...

Recommended for you

Understanding genetic synergy in cleft palate

July 19, 2017
Like all of the individual elements of fetal development, palate growth is a marvel of nature. In part of this process, ledges of tissue on the sides of the face grow downwards on each side of the tongue, then upward, fusing ...

Use of prefabricated blood vessels may revolutionize root canals

June 12, 2017
While root canals are effective in saving a tooth that has become infected or decayed, this age-old procedure may cause teeth to become brittle and susceptible to fracture over time. Now researchers at OHSU in Portland, Oregon, ...

Recreational cannabis, used often, increases risk of gum disease

May 24, 2017
Columbia University dental researchers have found that frequent recreational use of cannabis—including marijuana, hashish, and hash oil—increases the risk of gum disease.

Grape seed extract could extend life of resin fillings

May 9, 2017
A natural compound found in grape seed extract could be used to strengthen dentin—the tissue beneath a tooth's enamel—and increase the life of resin fillings, according to new research at the University of Illinois at ...

Crooked bite may indicate early life stress

April 13, 2017
Research has repeatedly confirmed that the first 1,000 days after conception strongly influence a person's life expectancy and susceptibility to chronic diseases. The primary marker used to identify early life stress is low ...

New study identifies successful method to reduce dental implant failure

March 24, 2017
According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID), 15 million Americans have crown or bridge replacements and three million have dental implants—with this latter number rising by 500,000 a year. The AAID estimates ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.