13/08/2021

Dr. Nicole Ann Lee: Should my child use fluoridated toothpaste?

Little girl using toothbrush

Seeing your little ones grow their first set of teeth is for sure exciting. When it comes to dental care, experts agree that starting as soon as possible is important for developing proper oral hygiene habits, and certainly key to ensuring a beautiful smile down the road. 

I am sure the use of fluoridated toothpaste is a common concern amongst parents.

Is fluoride toothpaste safe for children? 

One of the most frequently asked questions I get from parents is whether the use of fluoridated toothpaste is suitable for their child.

The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends that as soon as a child’s teeth start to come in, brushing for him/her should already be done so with fluoridated toothpaste. 

Fluoride helps prevent the formation of cavities and is even able to reverse early tooth decay! 

However, more is not always better! You’ll want to be careful about using too much toothpaste to guard against dental fluorosis, a condition which occurs when too much fluoride is ingested at a young age during the development of teeth, causing permanent opaque white or brown discolouration.

So how much fluoride toothpaste should children use? 

As a general rule of thumb, it is recommended that:

  • Children aged 2-3: Grain-sized smear 
  • Children aged 3 and older: Pea-sized blob 

Personally, besides using age as an estimated timeline, I may sometimes make individualized recommendations for each child depending on his/her ability to spit. Additionally, I would also assess the overall decay risk of each child and take into consideration the risk-benefit ratio before advising accordingly.

It’s important to keep to these guidelines as well as the advice of your child’s dentist, because you want sufficient fluoride exposure to protect your child’s teeth from decay, yet not too much to prevent the occurrence of pitting and discolouration. 

Do not hesitate to convey your difficulties to your child’s dentist, we usually have some tips and tricks up our sleeves to help you along!

Little boy using a toothbrush

Apart from using a small amount of toothpaste, here are some other important points for introducing fluoridated toothpaste to your little one: 

Choose a toothpaste that is age-appropriate 

Keep a lookout for labels on the boxes. Use a toothpaste that contains at least 1000ppm of fluoride and brush twice a day for about 2 minutes. 

Choose the right flavour 

You might be used to brushing with minty-fresh toothpaste, but most young children do not enjoy such strong “spicy” flavours. Instead, choose one that your child is able to tolerate; I usually recommend starting with fruits that they already enjoy. I’m sure your child’s dentist can recommend some that is right for him/her.

Keep the toothpaste out of reach 

Children are filled with curiosity and may put anything and everything in their mouths. Near the top of that list is toothpaste, especially when it tastes good. Apart from supervising your child when he/she brushes his/her teeth, I definitely recommend you being the one to dispense the toothpaste and otherwise keeping the tubes out of reach to prevent ‘snacking’. 

Is it okay if my child does not use fluoride toothpaste?

I usually only recommend this if your child is absolutely cavity-free and with good habits.

If you are really concerned about your child using fluoridated toothpaste, it is possible to opt for fluoride-free toothpaste. However, you need to bear in mind that while brushing with fluoride-free toothpaste can still clean teeth, it does not protect against tooth decay. 

It is crucial to make sure your child brushes well and goes for regular dental check-ups and cleaning to catch early signs of decay, and your paediatric dentist may advise as required.

What should I do then?

Finally, I recommend young children see a paediatric dentist early. Not only can we determine the urgency if your child needs fluoridated toothpaste (or if at all), we can also detect possible dental defects early and advise appropriately. 

My position also gives me the opportunity to guide parents on the steps to take to allow their children to grow up with beautiful healthy teeth. It is my pleasure to ensure your child is given optimal oral care, both at the clinic and at home!

Ask away if you have more questions for me regarding paediatric dentistry, I am more than happy to answer them! 

References

  1. Chen, A. Y., Wright, J. T., Quiñonez, R. B., & Phillips, C. (2018). Appropriate Fluoride Toothpaste Application: Improving Caregiver Compliance. Pediatric dentistry, 40(7), 412–418.
  2. Wright, J. T., Hanson, N., Ristic, H., Whall, C. W., Estrich, C. G., & Zentz, R. R. (2014). Fluoride toothpaste efficacy and safety in children younger than 6 years: a systematic review. Journal of the American Dental Association (1939), 145(2), 182–189. https://doi.org/10.14219/jada.2013.37
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