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Recommendations for Fluoridated Toothpaste Use in Children

Posted Feb 22 2010 12:26pm

By Colleen Hurley, RD, Certified Kid’s Nutrition Specialist

Long before the plastic bottle debate arose was the ongoing quandary of fluoridated toothpaste and children. Fluoride, when used topically, can help prevent tooth decay yet too much taken internally can have the opposite effecting leading to mottling or tooth discoloration. A recent study finally provides parents with a much needed fluoride usage guideline.

Brushing teeth is an excellent and necessary habit to initiate in a young child. Fluoride plays a critical role in the development of strong, healthy teeth. Being young, however, little ones do not always spit out the toothpaste properly increasing risk of fluorosis or fluoride toxicity hence the long standing debate over fluoride toothpaste. Researchers from the Cochrane Oral Health Group based out of the School of Dentistry at the University of Manchester found that fluoridated toothpaste decreased risk of tooth decay by 24% when compared with non-fluoridated products.

The recent report states parents should use a toothpaste that contains a minimum concentration of 1,000 parts per million of fluoride to prevent tooth decay in children. Preventing tooth decay ultimately can reduce the need for expensive dental treatments as well as subsequent pain and discomfort. In a second, related fluoridestudy the authors note the importance of parents discussing the benefits and risks with their child’s dentist particularly if a child is at high risk of tooth decay.

The study involved 73,000 children worldwide part of 79 clinical trials and examined the effects of various children’s toothpaste. Research determined that toothpastes with less than 1,000 parts per million (ppm) were similar to using a non-fluoridated toothpaste at preventing tooth decay. Currently, children’s toothpaste range in fluoride content from 100ppm to 1,4000ppm.

Using fluoride toothpaste to brush a child’s teeth under the age of 12 months may increase risk for fluorosis. Up until age 6, when teeth are fully developed, there is still risk of fluorosis if children swallow large amounts of toothpaste. Using a small amount under a parent’s watchful can help reduce these risks. Study authors note the confusion this particular matter can cause for parents which is only exacerbated by the varying amounts of fluoride in children’s toothpaste. The risk of tooth decay and its consequences, authors note, outweigh the small risk of fluorosis as children would have to swallow large amounts over a long period of time but recommend parents discuss this with their dentist.

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