Fluoride is a mineral found naturally in water, air and soil. The benefits of fluoride have led to the addition of fluoride to drinking water in many countries. There is no doubt that fluoride is good for your teeth, it helps to strengthen tooth enamel, prevents cavities and even reverse early tooth decay. Using fluoride containing toothpaste twice a day will provide sufficient fluoride to advance your dental health.
Like everything else in life, however, too much of fluoride is not a good thing. Swallowing a large amount of fluoride containing toothpaste may, among other things, cause stomach pain, intestinal blockage, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, drooling, and slow heart rate.
Swallowing a little toothpaste while brushing will not generally cause problems, unless you are doing it regularly. Adults generally do not eat toothpaste and can be assumed to be spitting while brushing. (Although there are adults who like to eat toothpaste) But children learn to spit at around 3 years of age and so, very young children tend to swallow toothpaste when brushing. Also, since toothpaste meant for kids is generally flavored, children may want to swallow it. Young children therefore, are at most risk for ingesting fluoride with toothpaste. This is why dentists recommended a rice size amount of fluoridated toothpaste for children under 3 years old. With this small amount of toothpaste, even if your child does swallow it, it will not harm him or her.
Ingestion of fluoride while brushing, can, over a period of time cause dental fluorosis. Dental fluorosis presents with fine white lines on the teeth. Fluorosis in its moderate and severe form can weaken the teeth and cause teeth to erode. It can result in permanent damage to the enamel of your teeth.
No child should be allowed to use toothpastes meant for adults. And children below the age of 2 are better of using fluoride-free toothpastes.
The quantity of toothpaste used while brushing your child’s teeth is also important. Dental research has found that most parents and caregivers tend to use large dollops of toothpaste. The American Dental Association recommends toothpaste the size of a grain of rice for children below the age of 2. For children between the ages of 3 to 6 a pea-sized amount of toothpaste suffices.
Keep toothpaste tubes out of reach of your child. Supervise your child’s brushing to make sure the right amount of toothpaste is being used. Encourage spitting while brushing and gargling after your child finishes brushing.