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New guidelines for fluoride use in kids

EDMOND, Okla. (Wendy Suares/KOKH) -- Your new baby pops that first set of teeth. You might think you have a few years before dental treatments.  But not according to new guidelines from the feds.  A new report says those baby teeth should be coated with fluoride immediately. 

A trip to the dentist isn't something most kids look forward to.  But far too few younger children are making these visits...  only 1 in 4 preschoolers.  The US Preventative Services Task Force now says  a fluoride varnish should be applied to infant teeth soon after they erupt.

"I think it's a good idea," said family dentist, Tim Rudd.

Dr. Rudd showed us the new fluoride varnishes hit the market about a year ago. 

"I think it's really safe," he said.  "It literally sticks right on the teeth.  It doesn't flow into the mouth in any way."

The goal is to strengthen those baby teeth and prevent tooth decay.  The new report points out 42% of children between 2 and 11 years old get cavities in their baby teeth.   At his practice in Edmond Dr. Rudd has seen tooth decay so severe in young children, they've required crowns, even extractions.  And in many cases, it's completely avoidable.

"I see it far more often than I wish I did," Dr. Rudd said.  "You know, we see it at least once a month here. That's just in my practice."

More than just the fluoride varnish, the task force also urges pediatricians to prescribe ingestible fluoride supplements for babies who live in areas, like Edmond, where no fluoride is added to the water supply.  Supplements come in drops, tablets, or lozenges.

"I believe it can be done in a very controlled and safe manner, Dr. Rudd said. "And i've done it for many years."

Dr. Rudd said it is now easy to prescribe the exact dose a child needs.  Too much can be damaging.

"fluoride in grossly large amounts IS a problem," he said. "But in amounts we use and prescribe, it's very safe."

fluoride has its share of critics. and the task force says it examined fluoride risks when coming up with the new recommendations.   In the end, they believe the benefit of reducing cavities outweighed possible harm.

It's a good idea to ask your baby's pediatrician about getting a fluoride varnish and possible supplements.  Most family dentists, like Dr. Rudd, like to start seeing children for regular visits around age 3 or 4, sooner if you suspect any problems. 

Toddlers can sometimes resist regular teeth brushing. Dr. Rudd suggests starting as soon as possible, using a soft finger brush even before your infant has many teeth.   He says they'll be much more likely to be good teeth brushers as they get older.

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