“Parents should use a smear of fluoridated toothpaste on a soft-bristled infant toothbrush twice daily as soon as the first tooth erupts.”
WHAT?!? My child cannot spit. What if my child swallows it? This is too much too soon! For many years, the standard was: no fluoride toothpaste under two years of age. What we’ve found is this age group is very vulnerable to decay due to frequent snacking. They have since completed quite a bit of research and found that fluoridated toothpaste can and should be used in young children at smaller amounts than adults. This is not a post on Fluoride. You will get all those juicy details at a later date. For now, let’s stay focused. I love guidelines because they get a discussion started. “What did you do last weekend? Did you grow up around here? Do you use fluoridated toothpaste for your child?” Everyone loves a good conversation starter so, let’s chat.
Firstly, does your child have teeth?
No — you do not need toothpaste, but you can always get your child familiar with cleaning their mouth using a warm washcloth or Dr. Brown’s Xylitol Tooth Wipes.
Yes — there are a few options:
- Water/dry toothbrush – I used this method to allow my child to get adjusted to using a toothbrush. I taught her what it was for and where it was supposed to go. This way, we did not have to dig toothpaste out of her ear canal. She is such a party animal.
- Non-fluoridated toothpaste – this option is basically a flavored incentive to encourage the child to brush their teeth. Many of these toothpastes contain Xylitol which is a sugar that does not cause cavities. While it is helpful in getting children to let us brush their teeth, it does not remineralize (harden damaged enamel) like Fluoride does.
- Fluoridated toothpaste – many children’s toothpastes have the same amount of Fluoride as adult toothpastes. Excuse me! What are we going to do about those deceptive toothpaste makers?? They have come to realize that people don’t frequent the toothpaste aisle to read the labels. If only they had met me…sigh. What makes kids toothpaste “Kids Toothpaste?” I hate to tell you this…but the Peppa Pig on the front and the bubble gum flavor on the inside.
Can I use my adult toothpaste for my child? Yes! But kids seem to be partial to the tube with the character on front and the mint flavor is “too spicy, Mama.”
Often, I hear, “My child cannot spit very well. I am worried he will swallow too much fluoride.” If I see a small child that has no cavities, and the parents are helping the child to brush at home, I do not insist the parents use fluoridated toothpaste. In fact, a lot of times, I will recommend brushing with water or non-fluoridated toothpaste in the morning and fluoridated toothpaste at nighttime to protect the child’s teeth while he sleeps. If the child has cavities or has dietary habits that increase his risk of getting cavities, then I do recommend fluoridated toothpaste for the morning and evening brushing. For example, if a child is older than one and is still waking up to eat through the night, the child would be at a higher risk for developing cavities than a child who is sleeping consistently through the night.
The key to using fluoridated toothpaste is using the correct amount for your child’s age. I hope these pictures help clarify things.
This fun cloth fits over the parent’s finger and can be used to wipe a child’s mouth, gums and teeth. It is great for very young children. You can also use a regular wash cloth and get the same results. You can use this dry, but my child seemed to like it in the bathtub with warm water.
Here we have three toothbrushes for different stages:
The blue monster toothbrush on the left is for children 3 and younger. The cool thing about this brush is that the color bristles indicate the amount of toothpaste you should be using for this age child. See how little it is? You should be estimating a smear or rice size amount of fluoridated toothpaste. (Disclaimer: the package says for age 2+. The reason for this, is they are following the old guideline of no fluoride in children younger than two.)
The center Princess Tiana toothbrush can be used in kids age three to six and a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. (Disclaimer: the package on this toothbrush says age 5-7, but the brush head size is not the issue here. It is the pea-sized amount of fluoride that is the main point.)
On the right, this toothbrush can be used by a person older than six and a thin ribbon of toothpaste can be used. The amount of toothpaste becomes less important at this age because most children can spit effectively by this age and will not be ingesting the fluoride.
A big thank you to my dear cousin for letting me use her two children as my dental models alongside my own kiddos!!