If you are trusting TV commercials or magazine ads when it comes to toothpaste, you are likely being steered in the wrong direction. It is very typical to see a toothpaste or toothbrush ad that shows off a nice big swirly glob of toothpaste across the bristles of a toothbrush. But is this really an appropriate amount of toothpaste? The answer is no, especially not for a young child. Your child should only be brushing with a “pea size” amount of toothpaste if he or she is between the ages of 3 and 6 years old. In fact, not only is that oversized glob of toothpaste not necessary to get the job done, it can actually be damaging to your child’s teeth. It is important that your child be able to spit out all of the toothpaste after brushing to protect against fluorosis. Fluorosis is a condition that results from too much fluoride. If you notice your child’s teeth becoming chalky white or yellow and brittle, they may be getting too much fluoride in their diet. Therefore, it is important for parents to monitor their children’s toothpaste use as well as be aware of how much fluoride is in your local tap water to best avoid fluorosis. Educate your children on what a “pea size” amount truly is to help them stay within recommended guidelines when brushing.
The suggested amount of toothpaste for kids younger than 3 is even smaller, only a smear is necessary. The ADA Council on Scientific Affairs has recently updated its guidelines to expand the use of fluoride toothpaste to include children younger than 3 years old. While we do need to be careful in not letting our kids overdose on toothpaste, it is even more important that we don’t neglect oral hygiene at a young age. Begin brushing and seeing a dentist as soon as you see that first tooth appear. You can even start oral health care for your newborn by wiping your baby’s gums with a clean washcloth after feedings.
As family dentists, Group Health Dental can help parents monitor appropriate toothpaste use for their child as well as help educate young children on why only a small amount of toothpaste will get the job done. Using too much toothpaste is a common habit not only for kids who like to see the suds of toothpaste foam in their mouth, but also for adults who may think that more toothpaste will make their mouth cleaner. Remember that the plaque you are washing away while brushing is soft and stick but not hard. Therefore, we do not necessarily need to scrub forcefully or use an abundance of toothpaste for clean teeth. Now that you know the facts, enjoy the extra savings in your pocket from buying less toothpaste!