Parents and caregivers who want their children to practice proper dental hygiene need to follow new recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday, February 1, after a study revealed that kids are using too much toothpaste containing fluoride, which may be doing more harm than good if ingested.
While the CDC maintains that fluoride is essential, contributing to the decline of tooth decay and cavities, the organization wants adults caring for children to know exactly how much toothpaste is necessary for young ones who are still developing teeth. If too much is used — half or all of the brush's length — they may wind up with "visibly detectable changes in enamel structure such as discoloration and pitting (dental fluorosis)."
Children that are 3-years-old and under should only be using a smear of toothpaste that is the size of a rice grain, and kids who are between the ages of 3- and 6-years-old should "use no more than a pea-sized amount." After the age of 6, swallowing reflexes should be sufficiently developed to prevent unintended ingestion.
Additionally, the CDC stated that babies' teeth should be brushed as soon as their very first tooth erupts, which can occur as early as 6-months-old. However, the toothpaste should not contain fluoride until the child reaches 2-years-old.
The study was based on data collected during the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2013 and 2016, which found that 38 percent of children between the ages of 3- and 6-years-old used more toothpaste than needed. The analysis also revealed that nearly 80 percent of those between the ages of 3- and 15-years-old started brushing their teeth later than recommended.
The CDC said that it has begun collaborating with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and the American Dental Association to educate pregnant women and new mothers on proper brushing practices, including the recommendation that children brush their teeth two times per day and that adults supervise each toothpaste application.
"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," said the health organization.
"Fluoride is a wonderful benefit, but it needs to be used carefully," Mary Hayes, a pediatric dentist in Chicago, explained to the Associated Press.
"You don't want [children] eating [toothpaste] like food. We want the parent to be in charge of the toothbrush and the toothpaste."