Fluoride is an important nutrient to help protect children’s teeth from decay. Making sure kids get enough fluoride exposure, especially topical fluoride such as fluoride toothpaste, can help reduce their cavity risk significantly.

However, exposure to too much fluoride can lead to tooth problems, too. Fluorosis is a tooth problem caused by consuming too much fluoride, which can be incorporated into tooth enamel, causing tooth defects. Minor fluorosis is just white spots on the teeth, which can be a nuisance, but more serious fluorosis can be dark brown color on teeth, and can make the teeth more vulnerable to decay.

Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) thinks that many children are consuming too much fluoride, thanks to their use of too much fluoride toothpaste.

Two young children brushing their teeth while smiling. A recent study shows that children like these are getting to much fluoride

CDC Toothpaste Recommendations

The CDC designed recommendations to help children get adequate fluoride exposure, but not too much . The CDC recommends that children start brushing their teeth as soon as teeth appear–no later than age 1 year. However, children should not start using fluoride toothpaste until at least age 2. At that point, children should use a tiny rice-sized grain of toothpaste, until they reach age six. At that point, children can “graduate” to using a full amount of toothpaste, always remembering to spit the used toothpaste.

Many Parents Don’t Follow Recommendations

However, the results of a new study conducted by the CDC and published February 1 shows that most parents are not following these recommendations.

The survey asked parents when their children first started brushing their teeth and how much toothpaste they used.

The survey showed that nearly 80% of children started brushing their teeth too late, with only 20.1% of children starting brushing before the age of 1. In the study, Mexican-American children were the least likely to start at this age, with only about 15% of them starting before the age of 1. In addition Mexican-American children were most likely to start brushing their teeth at greater than age three–about 22% of them started brushing their teeth this late.

The survey also showed that many children were using too much toothpaste. Researchers called attention to children between the ages of three and six, who are supposed to use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. However, more than 38% of children used more than this, potentially causing them to swallow too much toothpaste.

Children in this age group are more susceptible to swallowing toothpaste because their control of the swallowing action is not as great. This is also a vulnerable time for their teeth, because this is when most of their permanent teeth are developing. High fluoride exposure at these ages makes them more likely to experience fluorosis.

The excess fluoride exposure for children in this age group tracks with the increase in fluorosis among children in the US. In a previous study, the CDC found that, although only about 25% of people age 6-49 had fluorosis, the condition was more common among young teens, age 12-15, of whom about 41% had fluorosis. Of those with fluorosis, 37% had a mild or very mild effect, while 4% had moderate or severe effects.

Oral Health Is a Balancing Act

These figures remind us that to achieve optimal oral health, it’s important to take into account the benefits and drawbacks of various treatments. When ti comes to fluoride, it’s especially important to take into account the potential for children to be overexposed. Remember, there are other treatment options, such as sealants, which can help protect teeth.

But this isn’t the only material that has the potential to disrupt your oral and overall health. That’s why we offer allergy testing to help ensure we are always using dental materials that are compatible with your body.

If you are looking for a dentist in River Edge who takes a balanced approach to oral health, please call (201) 343-4044 today for an appointment with Dr. Marlen Martirossian at the River Edge Dental Center for General & Cosmetic Dentistry.