ToothpasteA study by the CDC published last Friday that explored the use of fluoride toothpaste in children up to 15 years of age.  They found that around 40% of children between
3-6 years old were using too much. This is a problem since too much fluoride toothpaste can lead to fluorosis of the developing teeth.  Fluorosis is often mild and causes cosmetic blemishes such as white or brown spots on teeth. In very severe cases it can even weaken the enamel.

So does this mean you should avoid using fluoride toothpaste for your child?  No! Don’t jump the fluoride ship just yet. As with all things, it’s about
moderation.  The younger your child, the less you should use.

Fluoride and other substances like tetracyclines can get incorporated into developing teeth.  Because of this, exposure to these substances should be limited. This doesn’t mean fluoride and tetracycline don’t have their uses, though.  Fluoride in the water supply, at concentrations of just 0.7 parts per million, has been shown to greatly reduce cavities in the general population and tetracycline antibiotics can work really well for staph, strep, and other bacterial infections.

Keep in mind that the younger the child the less they are able to spit out the toothpaste.  This means you have to expect they’re going to swallow some of it. A toothbrush fully loaded with toothpaste will definitely lead to problems for toddlers and younger children since their permanent teeth are still developing.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists, and the American Dental Association all advocate for using just a smear on children under 3 years old.  Keep it to less than a grain of rice. Kids between 3 and 6 years old should only use a pea sized amount. Beyond that, a half-loaded toothbrush should be plenty effective for older children and adults.

Pop quiz: Can adult teeth get fluorosis?

Answer: No.  The teeth have already fully developed, so nothing else will get incorporated into the enamel.  Okay, maybe some coffee and wine stains.