Fluoride is very well known for its natural cavity-fighting properties. It is a natural mineral that protects and maintains the health of the teeth for a long time. In the developed countries, fluoride can be found in drinking water, salt, milk, and even infant formula. All these forms of fluoride are categorized as systemic fluoride supplies.
One of the most readily available means of topical fluoride is fluoride toothpaste. The American Dental Association recommends the use of fluoridated toothpaste for the dental benefits of both the kids and adults. However, recently, parents around the world have raised a concern regarding the safety of fluoride toothpaste for children. This is because of the change in the ADA guidelines for the usage of fluoride toothpaste among children.
Earlier the ADA had recommended the use of fluoride toothpaste after the age of two. However, in February 2014, the guidelines changed and ADA recommended to use a smear of fluoride toothpaste for babies as soon as the first set of teeth erupt. (1) Today’s article will highlight the safety levels of fluoride toothpaste for toddlers and older children. Moreover, we will also discuss the ADA recommendations and alternatives for fluoride toothpaste.
Fluoride is a natural mineral that is mostly found in water, air, and soil. Developed countries such as the United States of America is well known for its water fluoridation techniques. Additionally, fluoride is also found in salt, milk, infant formula, and toothpaste. However, the percentage of fluoride may vary from one product to another. (2)
Fluoride is considered as one of the best ways of preventing tooth decay and cavity formations among children. This because the fluoride protects the tooth enamel and makes it resistant to bacterial acids in the mouth. One of the most popular forms of topical fluoride is fluoride toothpaste. Some of the critical properties of fluoride toothpaste include the following –
- Fights cavities and reverses early stages of dental caries
- Strengthens the weak tooth enamel
- Limits the growth of harmful oral bacteria in the mouth
- Remineralizes the tooth enamel
- Slows down the loss of calcium from tooth enamel
Is fluoride toothpaste safe for toddlers and older children?
Fluoride toothpaste usually contains a high concentration of fluoride as compared to fluoridated water, milk, or salt. Excessive fluoride intake can damage the tooth structure. Moreover, accidental swallowing of toothpaste can lead to systemic disturbance.
This is one of the reasons why parents are concerned about the use of fluoride toothpaste, especially for their children. Let’s look at the safety of fluoride toothpaste among different age groups –
Babies and toddlers
According to the new guidelines, as set by the American Dental Association, parents can use a smear of fluoride toothpaste. A smear of fluoride toothpaste is equivalent to the size of a grain of rice. Additionally, tooth brushing can begin as soon as the first set of teeth erupt. (3)
Babies and toddlers always have the risk of swallowing the toothpaste. Swallowing a little amount of fluoridated toothpaste will not harm the health of the child. However, to minimize the risk of swallowing, it is recommended to angle the head of the baby downwards. This allows the extra toothpaste to dribble out of the mouth.
Young children between the age of 3 and 6 years
At the age of 3, children develop the ability to follow instructions and spit the toothpaste out of the mouth. Children between the age of 3 and 6 years should follow regular tooth brushing under parental supervision. The ADA recommends the use of a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste for children between this age group. In the case of accidental swallowing, it is best to give the child milk or any dairy product, which will help to bind the calcium with fluoride in the stomach. (4)
The risk of fluorosis is more during the developmental stages of children. Therefore, supervising the children while tooth brushing is essential for their dental safety.
Older children and adults
Older children and adults have fully developed cognitive reflexes that allow them to brush regularly and adequately. Fluoride toothpaste at this stage helps to remineralize and strengthen the tooth enamel. (5)
Care should be taken not to swallow the toothpaste. Occasionally, some toothpaste may slide down the throat. However, such incidents are considered non-threatening. Additionally, adults must keep a check on the daily fluoride intake from other sources such as fluoridated water, salt, and milk.
Alternatives to fluoride toothpaste
There is a wide range of fluoride-free toothpaste available in the market for people who do not wish to use fluoride toothpaste. Additionally, some natural or herbal components may benefit the dental health and hygiene of people. Some of the alternatives to fluoride toothpaste are listed below –
- Neem – Neem is a natural herb that helps in reducing plaque and bacteria from the tooth surface. Moreover, it is well known for reversing the early stages of gingivitis. Therefore, toothpaste with neem extracts is useful in providing excellent dental health. (6)
- Coconut oil – home-made toothpaste usually contain a base of coconut oil along with baking soda. This is because coconut oil has antibacterial properties that reduce the incidence of tooth decay. Additionally, it also helps to control plaque formation in the mouth.
- Sea salt – sea salt dipped in water has been an ancient home remedy to brush the teeth effectively. It is still practiced in many rural areas. Sea salt is rich in nutrients and has excellent antibacterial properties that help to maintain good oral hygiene.
- Regular dental cleanings and check-ups are considered as the key to maintaining good oral health for a long time, especially when you are not using fluoride toothpaste. The dentist examines the teeth and gums to evaluate the health status.
Take away message
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that has proven to be the best tooth protector for a very long time. It protects the tooth from decay and cavity formation. Moreover, it helps in enamel remineralization, which strengthens the integrity of the tooth. Fluoride toothpaste is the most popular type of toothpaste used widely around the world. These toothpaste are dentist recommended. Moreover, the ADA has declared them safe for both the kids and adults.
There is always a risk of accidental swallowing or excessive fluoride intake. However, with conscious awareness, while brushing and using fluoridated products, you can maintain the health of your teeth and gums. Always follow the guidelines as recommended by the America Dental Association for each age group. Deviation from the guidelines can damage the teeth permanently. Moreover, keep up with your routine dental check-ups.