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Concerns have been raised as to whether the use of fluoride toothpaste is safe for kids and infants. The American Dental Association does recommend its use for kids. However, children can be more prone to complications associated with excess fluoride intake than adults. This is because their developing teeth are more vulnerable to the damage caused by excess fluoride. So, it is important that any kind of fluoride-based products, like fluoride toothpaste, is used in the safest ways recommended for children.
What Is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a natural mineral found in the earth’s crust. It is found naturally in our water, soil, and air. It is used in toothpaste and water supplies because it has the following benefits:
- Prevents tooth decay and cavities.
- Fortifies weak tooth enamel and reduces the loss of minerals from it.
- Helps in repairing tooth damage caused by acid.
- Reduces oral bacteria/plaque.
Fluoride toothpaste has a greater amount of fluoride than fluoridated water and therefore, should not be swallowed. But why does a high amount of fluoride cause harm? Just like any other vitamin or mineral supplement, anything is high quantities can cause more harm than good.
Is It Safe for Babies and Toddlers to Use Fluoride Toothpaste?
There have been debates about whether fluoride is safe for babies. Yes, it is. However, it has been recommended that you use a fluoride toothpaste that has a seal of acceptance from relevant medical authorities in your country.
Fluoride is also often recommended for kids as supplements. However, fluoride for toddlers is usually not recommended unless they live in areas where there is a lack of fluoride in drinking water, including bottled water.
So, what measures should be taken for infants using a toothpaste with fluoride? For babies and toddlers, the amount should be just about the size of a grain of rice.
Excess fluoride is not good before 8 years of age. This is when human teeth develop. Excess fluoride at this time can lead to a condition called enamel fluorosis. This condition is marked by discoloured and patchy teeth. These symptoms are not very noticeable at times and usually, the condition is mild. You should take your child to a dentist if you notice these symptoms.
The reason for the ingestion of excess fluoride is mostly the accidental swallowing of fluoride toothpaste, mouthwashes, rinses or any other fluoride-based dental care product. Excess intake of fluoride supplements, when it is not required by the body, can also cause this condition.
If there is excess ingestion of fluoride, poisoning can also occur. This is not a serious or life-threatening condition but it is very common. It occurs usually half an hour after ingestion. The condition can last for nearly 24 hours. The symptoms of fluoride poisoning include:
Can Young Children (Ages 3 Years and Above) Use Fluoride Toothpaste?
Yes, kids of ages 3 years and above can use fluoride toothpaste. Ensure that the amount used is not more than the size of a pea. Toddlers swallowing toothpaste is a common practice, which should be discouraged. Be around when your kids are brushing by themselves. Advise them to spit out the toothpaste and not to swallow it. Keep products out of the reach of kids so that they don’t playfully take in large amounts of them.
Are There Any Alternatives to Fluoride Toothpaste for Children?
There are products that help with dental and oral care other than fluoride-based ones. The below ingredients can be used in/as alternatives to fluoride toothpaste for children. They are:
A toothpaste with neem extract can be beneficial for the teeth. Neem is considered very effective in dental care especially in reducing plaque and as a remedy for gingivitis.
2. Coconut Oil
It can be used as a toothpaste easily when mixed with baking soda. It has antibacterial properties and reduces the growth of some bacteria that cause tooth decay. It can also help reduce plaque.
3. Sea Salt
Mix some sea salt in water or dip a wet toothbrush into some sea salt and brush your teeth as you normally would. It has several antibacterial properties and is high in nutrients that are good for your teeth.
4. Baking Soda
A very common household ingredient, you can mix together baking soda and water to form toothpaste. It can also be used in powder form for dental care.
5. Ozonated Olive Oil
Olive oil is a good moisturizer and when infused with ozone it can be used as an effective product for dental care. It is considered a viable alternative to fluoride-based dental care products.
6. Oregano Oil
Oregano oil can reduce toothaches, abscesses, and mouth sores. It is best used when diluted with olive oil because of its high potency.
Myrrh reduces bad breath and is great for gum health. It also prevents periodontal disease.
The oral and dental hygiene of kids is a primary concern for most parents. If you prefer to stick to traditional fluoride toothpaste keep the tips we have provided in mind. You can also prefer to opt for an alternative toothpaste for a few days of the week and use the fluoride one on the other days. This can create a healthy balance.