Toothpaste no doubt tastes so good because it gets kids to want to brush their teeth more — but are they using too much of it?
A study published Friday on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website revealed an analysis of over 5,000 children aged 3 to 15 found that more than 38 percent of kids from 3 to 6 years old use more toothpaste than the CDC recommends, which is a pea-sized amount. (For children under age 3, they recommend a rice-grain size.)
“Fluoride use is one of the main factors responsible for the decline in prevalence and severity of dental caries and cavities (tooth decay) in the United States,” the report states, adding that children should not begin using toothpaste containing fluoride until age 2.
Before citing the statistics, the study explains that the “Ingestion of too much fluoride while teeth are developing can result in visibly detectable changes in enamel structure such as discoloration and pitting (dental fluorosis).”
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In addition, the results — compiled by a team of doctors and dentists including Gina Thornton-Evans, Michele L. Junger, Mei Lin, Liang Wei, Lorena Espinoza and Eugenio Beltran-Aguilar — showed that a whopping 80 percent of kids began brushing their teeth later than recommended.
The CDC recommends parents begin brushing their little ones’ teeth “when the first tooth erupts,” around 6 months old, as well as bringing them in for their first dental visit no later than 1 year.
“Parents and caregivers can play a role in ensuring that children are brushing often enough and using the recommended amount of toothpaste,” the study said.
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“The findings suggest that children and adolescents are engaging in appropriate daily preventive dental health practices; however, implementation of recommendations is not optimal,” the report went on. “Careful supervision of fluoride intake improves the preventive benefit of fluoride, while reducing the chance that young children might ingest too much fluoride during critical times of enamel formation of the secondary teeth.”
Speaking with ABC7 New York, Chicago-based pediatric dentist Dr. Mary Hayes advised that while “fluoride is a wonderful benefit” to the health of children’s teeth, “it needs to be used carefully.”
“You don’t want them eating it like food,” she told the station. “We want the parent to be in charge of the toothbrush and the toothpaste.”