Have you ever heard the saying you can have too much of a good thing? That saying goes double for Fluoride. Although fluoride is essential when it comes to fighting cavities, using too much fluoride toothpaste can actually be unhealthy for children’s teeth. The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) conducted a study asking more than 5,000 parents how much toothpaste their child uses. The results showed that nearly 40% of children between the ages of 3-6 years old use more toothpaste than recommended.  The problem with using too much toothpaste is the amount of fluoride a child can ingest. Too much fluoride in a child’s system while their teeth are developing can actually damage their enamel. How can that be? Using too much toothpaste increases the risk of ingesting too much fluoride which can lead to a cosmetic condition known as Fluorosis.

A mild case of Fluorosis may leave just mild white marks on your child’s teeth that can only be detected by a dentist. But a more severe case of Fluorosis can leave stains ranging from yellow to brown. The worst part of Fluorosis is that it’s irreversible. The stains do not go away with time or extra brushing. In severe cases a child’s teeth can look like they’re dirty or rotten which is a big hit to their self-esteem. However, there are treatments that can help your child if he or she has developed Fluorosis. The condition can be treated with whitening techniques, veneers or other cosmetic dentistry techniques. Your dentist will be the best person to decide which treatment is best. A child is in the clear of developing fluorosis when he/she reaches the age of 8.

So how much toothpaste should your child be using? The CDC recommends that children shouldn’t use fluoride toothpaste until they’re 2 years old. This doesn’t mean that children under 2 should skip brushing, though. The CDC suggest using a clean, damp cloth for cleaning when a child is under the age of 2. The Academy of Pediatrics recommends children start brushing their teeth when the first tooth arrives, which can occur as early at 6 months. When it comes to the recommended amount of toothpaste children under the age of 3 should only use a rice grain size of toothpaste. Children between the ages of 3-6 should only use a pea-sized amount. The CDC’s recommendation is based on the fact that a child’s swallowing reflex has developed enough by the age of 6 to prevent the accidental ingestion of toothpaste.

The CDC says the most important thing to remember is supervision. The agency says keeping an eye on your children is critical when a child first begins brushing their teeth.

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