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Pediatric Guidelines for Using Toothpaste in Young Children

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

When we think of making sure our children are healthy, eating a diet filled with fruits and vegetables, staying active, and attending regular doctor visits usually come to mind. But pediatric dental care is an essential part of your child's development too. With all the online sources parents have at their disposal, it's critical you find information that is as accurate as it is convenient. And while every child is unique, there are some helpful guidelines to follow for each stage of your child's dental development. One common question parents often have: when can a child use regular toothpaste?

In February 2014, the American Dental Association (ADA) revised its position on fluoride toothpaste for young children. With such recent updated recommendations, it could mean that information you find online is out of date. We recommend using the following points to help you decide when to start your child on a toothpaste that includes fluoride. Let's go over the most up-to-date information regarding children and toothpaste.

What Does Fluoride Do?

Just like adults, children are susceptible to tooth decay. Did you know that according to the ADA, 25% of children have a cavity by the time they enter kindergarten? It's no wonder you want to help your child with their oral care routine as soon as possible. As soon as your child's teeth come in, which usually begins around six months of age, you should be consistent about brushing them with toothpaste.

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that's often found in public drinking water. It's now also an additive in many kinds of toothpaste. It strengthens the hard outer layer that protects the teeth, known as enamel. Flouride is an essential substance for your child's teeth to stay healthy and strong. But since not all tap and bottled water contain fluoride, your child must use toothpaste that contains it.

Using Age-Based Portions

The ADA's new guidance for children under three years of age is to brush using a "smear" of fluoride-containing toothpaste, no larger than the size of a grain of rice. You should brush their teeth twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. When your child turns three, the ADA recommends that you continue brushing your child's teeth twice a day, but now with a slightly larger portion of fluoride toothpaste, the size of a pea.

Supervision and the Seal of Acceptance

As a parent, supervising and guiding your child while they're brushing is essential for them to feel informed and confident that they're doing it right. You should brush your child's teeth for them until they're about six or seven, as they will lack the necessary coordination until then. Once they can grip a toothbrush on their own, you can supervise them with positive reinforcement. Whether you're just starting to brush your child's teeth or you're at the stage of monitoring their habits, make sure you've got them using the right products and toothpaste for kids. Look for a product that has the ADA Seal of Acceptance® on it. It's an excellent source of confidence for parents and caregivers!

Toothbrush Size

Beyond finding the right toothpaste, the size of your child's toothbrush also matters. By getting a toothbrush that's the appropriate size for a child's mouth, as well as one that's colorful, or plays music, or even lights up, you'll be helping your child find brushing to be a comfortable and fun activity! It's also helpful to check with your child's dentist or dental hygienist when choosing these products since they're professionals who also know your child well.

Making the right pediatric dental choices comes down to having the correct information. Armed with the ADA's new recommendations, you should feel comfortable knowing you're giving your child the best pediatric toothpaste that's appropriate for their age. You should always feel comfortable bringing up any dental product concerns with your child's dentist and dental hygienist too. This will ensure you feel empowered to make the best decisions for your child's oral health and supervise them with confidence!

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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