Q&A: Fluoride for Babies and Kids

There’s a dizzying array of toothpastes and children’s oral care products available in stores today, and the surrounding confusion is understandable.  In addition to a myriad of flavors and cartoon characters, certain toothpastes are marketed as specific to “children”, “toddler”, or “infant” with no discernable difference in ingredients.  Even more mystifying, there are fluoride-free toothpastes that are more “natural” and position themselves as healthier alternatives to "dangerous" adult toothpastes. We all want to do what’s best for our kids - what’s a parent to do??

Well here at Kirby Smiles, we are huge advocates of fluoride, and we want to ensure that our we address our patients’ concerns and clear up any confusion or misperceptions about fluoride.

Q: Isn’t fluoride a chemical?  I want to use only natural products for my kids.

A: Fluoride is in fact a naturally-occurring mineral found in drinking water and in many foods.  Unless you have a very specific medical concern, fluoride is completely harmless and actually GREAT for babies and children!

Q: Should I purchase a toothpaste that has fluoride for my baby?

A: In short, YES!  The ADA recommends using fluoride toothpaste as soon as your child’s baby teeth erupt.  We do caution that everyone follow the recommended dosages; for children age 2 and younger, use only a “smear” - a dab approximately the size of a grain of rice.  A pea-sized amount is appropriate for older children, aged 3 to 6.

Q: Is swallowing fluoride toothpaste harmful to my child?

A: As long as children use toothpaste in recommended dosages as outlined above, the trace amounts of fluoride that may be ingested will be harmless.  That being said, we always encourage children to spit out their their toothpaste (fluoride or not!) as soon as they are able to understand. Please note that for our younger patients under the age of 7, we strongly recommend that parents take a very active role in their child’s oral hygiene, helping the child brush if necessary until the child is able to sufficiently do a thorough job on his/her own.

Q: What if my child persists in swallowing their fluoride toothpaste?  Could this be harmful?

A: The amount of ingested fluoride would have to be quite substantial and sustained over time.  However, if your child is regularly eating large amounts of fluoride, there is a risk of pitted tooth enamel and fluorosis, which manifests as white staining on teeth.  We would like to reiterate though that the vast majority of dental organizations and dental experts across the board agree that the benefits of using fluoride far outweigh the risks, especially with adequate parental guidance.

If you have additional questions or concerns, contact our Houston dental office!  Our licensed pediatric dentists are always available to help with any concerns you may have regarding your child’s oral health.