In our commercial world, we often think of gifts as things we buy and wrap. But as a parent, "gifts" come in many different forms. I truly believe taking care of your child's teeth, no matter how much they might fight it, is a "gift" I give them and something they'll thank me for in the future.
When it comes to deciding on a toothpaste, some people would never dream of using a non-fluoridated toothpaste, others wouldn’t touch fluoride with a 10-foot pole. But the truth is, whatever type of toothpaste you allow into your child's mouth will add up with time. According to Delta Dental, we're using 20 gallons of toothpaste throughout our lifetime! For the health of your child, take some time to consider what's in the toothpaste he or she uses.
Fluoride Debate Aside, Here Are Tooth Facts For Your Little One
Regardless of your love or hate for fluoride, one thing’s for sure — as soon as your darling little infant pops their first baby tooth, it’s important to take care of it.
- Wipe the tooth with a clean cloth or begin brushing with a soft-bristled, small head brush (no toothpaste at this point).
- The most important time to brush is at night, after the last feeding.
- Once your little person turns 1 year old, it’s important to brush teeth at least twice a day (morning and night). When my boys were this age, I brushed before afternoon nap and before bed. This way I was brushing lunch away before sleeping and dinner away before sleeping.
- I strongly believe in introducing teeth flossing at a young age. I’m a big fan of the flossing picks because they’re easier to use than stringy floss. Eventually, your child can use the dental pick themselves.
Flouridated vs. Non-Flouridated
One of the biggest issues surrounding fluoride is its overuse in young children. Since infants are developing at such a fast pace, many companies include fluoride in products like formula, toothpastes and supplements to help keep teeth strong. Ironically, this overexposure could lead to dental fluorosis, a condition in which newly formed teeth possess white or dark spots over the enamel. Fluoride can also be toxic when ingested in large quantities.
On the other hand, using fluoridated toothpaste has shown strong evidence of supporting healthy teeth and gums, and is recommended for everyday use by the American Dental Association.
Aside from flouride, there are other toothpaste ingredients to be mindful of. I personally buy toothpaste free of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), artificial color, artificial sweetener (ie: sorbitol, saccharin), carrageenan, propylene glycol and triclosan.
For toothpaste sweeteners, stick to stevia or xylitol as natural sweetener alternatives.
How Much Toothpaste?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) advises limiting the amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush. For children younger than 2 years old, limit toothpaste to a “smear” on the brush, and a “pea-sized” amount for children ages 3 to 6. Strategies to limit the amount swallowed include limiting the amount placed on the brush and observing the child as they brush.
Parents, take Note:
In a study that looked at a parent’s interpretation of “smear” and “pea-size,” most parents use more fluoridated toothpaste than is recommended for young children and the study found that verbal instructions to limit the dose were ineffective. Education by demonstrating a smear and pea-sized amounts of fluoridated toothpaste is recommended.
Both fluoridating and non-fluoridating products are available in natural products stores so you can decide which is better for your needs. What "gift" will you give your child this week?
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods
Huebner CE et al. Parents' interpretation of instructions to control the dose of fluoridated toothpaste used with young children. Pediatr Dent. 2013 May-Jun;35(3):262-6.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Oral Hygiene. http://www2.aap.org/oralhealth/pact/ch5_sect1.cfm
American Academy of Pediatrics. Fluorosis. http://www2.aap.org/oralhealth/pact/ch5_sect1b.cfm