I thought it would be easy to give advice on toothpaste. But I was wrong. I discovered you need to be a dedicated consumer to find the right toothpaste for a young child.
All young children up to the age of three should have toothpaste with no less than 1000 ppm (parts per million) fluoride in it and then, from ages 3-6, toothpastes with more than 1000 ppm fluoride. This sounds clear, but when I popped into my local pharmacy to see what toothpastes are on offer to parents of young children, I was confused.
There were pastes for varying age groups with no overall consistency. One of the pastes had 1000 ppm fluoride and was described as low fluoride while the one with the prettiest packaging had 500ppm fluoride and was not described as low dose. Part of the reason for the confusion is that historically childrenâ€™s toothpastes had low doses of fluoride but we now know these should be avoided.
Naturally occuring mineral
Today, we understand the importance of fluoride. Itâ€™s a naturally occurring mineral and itâ€™s present in some water supplies. The impact that the introduction of fluoride in toothpaste had from the 1950s onwards is clear to see. Dental decay went down substantially after fluoride was regularly introduced as an ingredient in toothpaste. And if you compare the dental health of children in fluoridated areas with children in non-fluoridated areas, itâ€™s much better.
Ask any dentist or hygienist, children should benefit from the enamel-hardening qualities of fluoride. I have come across some parents who have been anti-fluoride and bought toothpaste without it. When their first child had noticeable decay, they realised that fluoride really is beneficial. And because fluoride is administered in small doses, we know that itâ€™s not harmful. We also know that baby teeth are important because they hold the space for adult teeth. So parents should seek out toothpaste with fluoride in it.
Keep toothpaste out of reach of children
Another thing to remember is that you shouldnâ€™t leave toothpaste within reach of a young child. If itâ€™s tasty, they will eat it! Too much fluoride can cause fluorosis, a mottling of the teeth. Nowadays, fluoride drops arenâ€™t recommended. Most children should get what fluoride they need from twice daily tooth-brushing. Fluoride varnish is also recommended.
If you are a parent and trying to do the best for your child, my advice is not to be deceived by the packaging. Check out the small print and if the toothpaste has got the right amount of fluoride, then itâ€™s a good choice. If you are in any doubt, talk to your dentist. Or read this resource from the Oral Health Foundation.