Should I use Fluoride Toothpaste with Young Children?
Many parents often wander how they should help their young children care for their teeth. They worry that not using fluoride may make their kids more susceptible to tooth decay throughout their life. But they are also concerned that too much fluoride can cause lasting effects. The American Dental Association (ADA) has recently released some new guidelines to help best care for the oral health of young children.
Dental fluorosis is a developmental disturbance of the enamel that is caused by excessive exposure to high concentrations of fluoride during tooth development. It typically results in small, white streaks on the teeth (most common case), but the more severe cases can result in discoloration or brown markings. To avoid this, the ADA has recommended the following guidelines:
1. From the time of the first tooth eruption until the age of 3, use a ‘smear’ of fluoride containing toothpaste across the brush. This amount is similar to a grain of rice. The parents should assist the child in brushing twice per day.
2. For children between the ages of 3 and 6, you only need a ‘pea-sized’ amount of fluoride toothpaste. Parents should continue to help the child brush during this time and it should be completed twice per day.
For most, the guidelines above will be adequate for dental caries prevention in children. However, it is important to maintain regular check-ups and discuss any changing circumstances with your dentist and dental hygienist. Depending on the risk assessed for your child, changes may be made to the standard protocol. The decision would be based on the child’s total fluoride exposure (includes water and toothpaste) and any other dental or medical history that may place them at a higher risk of developing cavities. Additional rinses, pastes, foams or gels may be added as needed.
While it is important to be aware of the risks of over exposure to fluoride for your children, the important thing to remember is the long term benefits of fluoride far out-weigh any risks. With frequent exams, we can help customize a plan for your family to achieve strong teeth and good dental health.