Kids and Toothpaste – Too Much of a Good Thing?
Good hygiene habits, including diligent oral hygiene, are best established early. While your child’s dentist can be an excellent source of advice, it is up to parents to ensure their children are caring properly for their teeth. Parents should teach their children to brush twice daily and floss at least once a day from the time the child is old enough to comprehend.
It is also important to use toothpaste containing fluoride since fluoride is best substance available for preventing tooth decay and subsequent infections and tooth loss. However, small children require very low amounts of fluoride. While fluoride is certainly beneficial, too much can cause problems.
Exposure to excessive amounts of fluoride can cause a condition called fluorosis. Fluorosis is a cosmetic condition where teeth become darkened or exhibit spotting. Although fluorosis is almost never painful and does not harm teeth, it can cause cosmetic issues and problems with self-esteem.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that over half of all American kids age 3 to 15 use too much toothpaste. The same problem likely exists among Canadian children since both nations have similar oral care habits.
When children use too much toothpaste, they may inadvertently swallow some of the toothpaste. Ingesting toothpaste can result in fluorosis over time. Toothpaste is not needed until your child’s first tooth erupts. Before that time, simply wipe your child’s gums with a clean, moistened cloth after each meal.
Current guidelines recommend that children under three years old use only a tiny amount of toothpaste when brushing – about the size of a single rice grain. Kids between three and eight years old should use no more toothpaste than the size of a pea.
Parents should also supervise young kids when they brush. Encourage your child to rinse thoroughly after brushing and instruct them to avoid swallowing toothpaste. If you notice teeth spots or darkening, let your child’s dentist know right away.
Again, fluorosis is not dangerous or a threat to your child’s health, but every parent certainly wants their child to have a beautiful smile. With careful supervision, your kid can develop good dental care habits and still avoid ingesting too much fluoride. If you have any questions, always consult your family dentist.