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Should Your Child Be Using Fluoride Toothpaste?

Untreated tooth decay in children is one of the most common conditions worldwide, which is why many toothpaste manufacturers have a wide range of toothpaste aimed at children, available in a variety of sweet flavours with cartoon characters all over the packaging. I wanted to write this post to give parents a little more information about toothpaste because it’s not really about the cute packaging and the taste test (agreed this does help make brushing teeth a lot easier).

Many parents, unfortunately, do not know the proper guidelines when choosing and using toothpaste in children. Majority of mothers start brushing their children’s teeth late, use adult toothpaste and have no idea about the clinical significance of fluoride. Most moms also use a full length of toothpaste on their children’s brushes.

HOW MUCH FLUORIDE IS ENOUGH?

Your body takes in fluoride by swallowing it in food and water. Fluoride occurs naturally in varying amounts in water sources and to a lesser degree in certain foods and drinks. Some countries also fluoridate their public water supply. Another way to take in fluoride is by topical application (in fluoridated toothpastes and mouthwashes). The fluoride taken in from foods and drink also provides some topical benefits when it becomes mixed with saliva.

We all know that brushing your teeth is vital in preventing tooth decay. It helps remove plaque, and the fluoride in toothpaste makes tooth enamel stronger, and more resistant to cavities. But how do you know which toothpaste to buy for your little ones when the amount of fluoride between brands ranges from zero to as high as that of adult toothpaste?

Fluoride in toothpaste is expressed as parts per million of fluoride (ppmF). According to the UK Department of Health, children under three years of age need to use a toothpaste with 1,000 ppmF. Older kids and adults need to use 1,450 ppmF. Young children need less fluoride to reduce the risk of fluorosis.

WHAT IS FLUOROSIS?

Fluorosis is the change of appearance of permanent teeth where they develop white lines or streaks. This happens when the developing teeth under the gums in younger children are exposed to excess fluoride. Too much fluoride affects the mineralisation of the teeth, and children younger than six years are at highest risk. The severity of Fluorosis is dose-dependent.

Image Source: health2blog.com

Fluorosis is a cosmetic condition and not a disease. It does not increase or decrease the risk of cavities. While the majority of cases of Fluorosis are mild, it can still have a significant psychological effect on your child.

HOW MUCH TOOTHPASTE IS ENOUGH?

It can be challenging to get your child to spit out the toothpaste after brushing without swallowing, especially if the toothpaste tastes like candy. It is therefore essential to use a small amount of toothpaste until your child has learnt to spit after they brush since inevitably your child will end up swallowing about half of what’s on the brush.

To prevent too much fluoride from being swallowed, you have to be vigilant about the amount you put on the brush. It is recommended that children under three years of age use no more fluoride toothpaste than a smear or the size of a grain of rice. For children three to six you should use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.

Teach your child from an early age to spit. They don’t need to rinse. It’s also a good idea to not let them eat or drink anything after they have brushed their teeth so that the fluoride can do its job overnight.

KEY POINTS

  • Start brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as you see them come through.
  • Brush your child’s teeth morning and night with an age-appropriate brush.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste with the right amount of fluoride recommended for your child’s age. It is no longer recommended that children start using fluoride toothpaste only after the age of two.
  • Use the correct amount of toothpaste for your child’s age.
  • Children under six years of age should never use a fluoride mouthwash.

Fluoride toothpaste is generally safe and recommended for babies and young children provided you use it correctly. The most important thing you need to worry about is the amount of fluoride in the toothpaste. The next time you go out shopping for toothpaste take a look at the ppmF. You will be quite surprised since many of the “children’s” toothpastes have exactly the same amount of fluoride as adult toothpaste. Therefore it really only boils down to cost and taste and whether or not your little is a fan of Barbie.

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