If you’re living with a baby or toddler in the house, efficiency is everything. You may not even have time to run to the store to pick up toiletries. With this being the case, it’s understandable that you might be tempted to use the same toothpaste on your little one that you use. After all, if it’s good for you, it’s good for your baby, right? Well, not exactly.

Fluoride has been proven to be an excellent way to prevent tooth decay by making the teeth stronger. Yet too much can be dangerous for babies and toddlers. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires all toothpaste containing fluoride to also list a poison warning because too much of a good thing can be harmful. Some of the health problems that can occur from ingesting too much fluoride include:

  • Dental fluorosis — This is a permanent tooth discoloration that can happen during the tooth-forming years, which lasts until a child is 8 years old. Excessive fluoride can also cause white streaks on the teeth. In severe forms of fluorosis, black and brown stains, pitting and crumbling of tooth enamel is visible on the permanent teeth.
  • Stomach problems — A young child can have diarrhea or an upset stomach if they swallow too much fluoride.
  • Skin rashes — Some dermatologists have found a link between fluoride and a rash around the mouth called perioral dermatitis.

Depending on where you live, the water that your baby or young toddler drinks can also include fluoride. Which is why you should proceed with caution when brushing your young child’s teeth. It’s important to supervise babies and toddlers to make sure they don’t use too much fluoride toothpaste.

Tips on caring for baby and toddler teeth

The American Dental Association recommends using fluoride toothpaste as soon as teeth break through the surface and can be seen. To start a lifetime of good oral hygiene, get in the habit of brushing your young child’s teeth morning and night. Parents often assume that the amount of toothpaste that’s squirted onto the toothbrush doesn’t matter. However, this is totally wrong.

For those 3 years of age or younger, use the tiniest amount of toothpaste, just a smear the size of a grain of rice will be all that’s needed. And, for this age group, it’s best that the parents or other caretaker do the brushing.

For those 3 and older, the amount of toothpaste used should be approximately the size of a pea.

Many fluoride toothpastes are created with flavors children find appealing, such as fruity flavors or bubble gum flavors. Yes, this might encourage the child to enjoy brushing his or her teeth. Unfortunately, the child might be tempted to swallow instead of spitting it out, because they enjoy the taste.

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a child should have their first dentist appointment by age 1, or within 6 months after the first tooth erupts. This is the perfect time to discuss whether you should use a toothpaste with or without fluoride on your little one’s pearly whites.

If you have questions on which toothpaste to use for your child, consult with your dentist. They will tell you everything you need to know to protect your little one’s teeth.

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