February marks National Children’s Dental Health month, which reminds us all how important having good oral health is beginning at a young age. Childhood tooth decay has become a major public health issue, and is unfortunately the most common chronic disease in children in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), 25% of children have tooth decay by the time they enter kindergarten.
Luckily, there are many methods to help lower the risk of tooth decay. One great option is using fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride is a natural mineral that is clinically known to strengthen tooth enamel, prevent tooth decay, and can even reverse early tooth decay through remineralization.
- Fluoride toothpaste is recommended by the ADA for both children and adults and is deemed both safe and effective in preventing tooth decay.
- Fluoride can also be found in most community public water supplies. The CDC reports that community water fluoridation may reduce tooth decay by 25%.
- For proper safety, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends using a smear of fluoride toothpaste on children younger than 3 years old and to avoid swallowing. Ingesting the toothpaste or using a larger amount may result in issues such as an upset stomach or other health issues.
- For individuals ages 3 to 6, a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste is safe, but it is best to supervise them during this process.
- Overall, fluoride toothpaste is safe for children when taken in the recommended amounts and when not swallowed.
What is fluoride toothpaste?
- Fluoride toothpaste can significantly benefit your oral health. Fluoride is a mineral commonly found in water, soil, rocks, and may foods.
- According to the ADA, the active ingredient in fluoride toothpastes in the United States is commonly sodium fluoride, sodium monofluorophosphate, or stannous fluoride.
- Over-the-counter fluoride toothpastes often contain a fluoride concentration of 1,000 to 1,500 ppm. Prescription-strength fluoride toothpastes prescribed by dental professionals often contains 5,000 ppm fluoride, according to ADA.
- There are many fluoride toothpastes that can tackle many needs. This includes fluoride toothpastes that address teeth whitening, teeth sensitivity, plaque buildup, and gum disease.
Benefits of fluoride toothpaste for kids
Prevents tooth decay
Tooth decay is caused by bacteria that turn the foods we consume into acids that break down tooth enamel. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by strengthening the teeth to protect against the harmful bacteria.
Fluoride makes teeth stronger and more resistant to destructive acids. Acids produced by oral bacteria can lead to tooth wear, tooth sensitivity, dental cavities, gum disease, and many more oral problems.
Fights bad breath
Fluoride helps stimulate saliva production, which also contributes to strengthening tooth decay and washing away bacteria. Both fluoride and saliva help combat the smelly odors produced by oral bacteria.
Promotes healthy gum
Fluoride has an antimicrobial effect which helps promote healthy gums. It also makes it harder for bacteria to stick to tooth surfaces and the gums.
Reinvigorate your teeth with natural minerals
Another great benefit of fluoride is its capability to remineralize enamel. It forms a compound known as calcium fluorapatite, which makes your teeth more resistant to acidic breakdown. It can also reverse early tooth decay.
Tooth strength and protection
Fluoride adds strength to the teeth by making them more resistant to mineral loss. This helps protect the teeth from acid attacks and cavities.
Safety concerns surrounding fluoride toothpaste for kids
Although rare, when applied or swallowed at high does, fluoride can be toxic. An overdose of fluoride will likely require the need to go to the hospital emergency department. Symptoms of fluoride overdose commonly include stomach pain, possible intestinal blockage, convulsions, diarrhea, trouble breathing, drooling, abnormal taste, slow heart rate, tremors, vomiting, and weakness.
When consumed in excess, especially before the age of 8 during tooth development, dental fluorosis can occur. Fluorosis often appears as white stains on the outer surface of teeth. This can be prevented by following the appropriate fluoride dosage guidelines per age group. According to the CDC, approximately less than 1 in 4 people between the ages of 6-49 have fluorosis.
According to the ADA, children under the age of 3 years old should use toothpaste with a fluoride level of 1,000 parts per million (ppm). This typically mirrors a smear or a size of a grain of rice. Children above the age of 3 are advised to use toothpaste with a fluoride level of 1,350-1,500 ppm. They should use approximately a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste when brushing. For all ages, teeth should be brushed twice a day.
How to use fluoride toothpaste safely for kids
The ADA recommends a smear of fluoride toothpaste for children under the age of 2 years, which equates to approximately 0.1 gram of toothpaste or 0.1 milligram of fluoride. For children between the ages of 2 to 6 years, a pea-sized amount which is approximately 0.25 g toothpaste or 0.25 mg fluoride is recommended.
Importance of supervision
Parental supervision when your child is brushing is key to helping them develop the proper oral techniques and routine. Supervising children's brushing will help minimize the risk of swallowing of fluoride toothpaste and potential toxicity. It is also best to encourage them to look forward to taking care of their teeth, and explain the consequences of poor oral health.
How to choose the right fluoride toothpaste for your child
Choose a fluoride toothpaste that has the ADA Seal of Acceptance, which means that it has been approved for safety and efficacy. You may have your child choose a flavor that they enjoy to make brushing more exciting.
Choose the right quality products for kids
- Look for a fluoride toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Acceptance to ensure that the product is approved for safety and efficacy.
- Opt for a great tasting flavor that your child will look forward to using so that the toothbrushing experience can be rewarding.
- Due to the many benefits of fluoride for oral health, choose a toothpaste with fluoride.
- Look for a non-abrasive fluoride toothpaste to avoid damaging tooth enamel. Certain chemicals like whitening ingredients can be too abrasive for children with developing teeth.
What is the right age to seek a dentist for toddlers
A child should see the dentist no later than their first birthday. This will allow for any dental issues to be caught early. It will also be a great start for establishing good habits and a healthy and happy relationship with the dentist. A pediatric dentist is specialized to diagnose and treat dental issues for children through their teenage years.
Fluoride toothpaste is both safe and recommended for both children and adults by dental professionals. Fluoride toothpaste can help prevent tooth decay, strengthen and remineralize teeth, lower the risk of gum disease, fight bad breath, among many other oral health benefits. Be sure you are supervising young children when toothbrushing and ensuring that the adequate amount of fluoride toothpaste is being used per the ADA guidelines. With the proper use of fluoride along with regular dental visits and good oral hygiene, your child’s smile will last a lifetime.