What is Fluoride and why do you need it for your teeth?

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Dental Association, and the CDC all agree, kids need to brush their teeth. Cavities are a serious issue in kids and adults and they can be prevented with good dental hygiene.

However, new research shows that many parents may be doing it incorrectly.

Dental Fluorosis is a common condition that occurs most often in children and young adults. For the most part, it is harmless but it can cause discoloration, staining, or pitting of the teeth.

Unfortunately, according to the CDC, it is on the rise in the United States.

Source: Flurosis (CDC)

Fluoride reduces cavities in teeth

Fluoride promotes better dental health by helping your teeth strengthen enamel. Enamel is the tough outer layer of your teeth that protects your teeth and gives them strength for chewing.

Studies have shown that fluoride, when used correctly, reduces cavities.

Cavities matter, even for kids

Data on the prevalence of cavities in kids

This matters because cavities are surprisingly common in kids. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 50% of kids will have cavities by age 5. Much of this is preventable through good oral hygiene including brushing and flossing.

Source: Dental Health & Hygiene for Young Children

Using too much toothpaste can be harmful for kids

Fluorosis facts and statistics

As with any activity, proper form is key.

Many kids tend to use too much toothpaste. While adults generally spit out any toothpaste they use, kids may swallow their toothpaste. This can lead to too much fluoride entering the body.

Fluorosis is a condition that occurs with too much fluoride. Most of the fluoride we take in comes from toothpaste, mouthwash, and fluoridated drinking water. While fluoride is good for you when applied to your mouth, it can be harmful when swallowed.

The symptoms of Dental Fluorosis include staining and discoloration of the teeth. In severe cases (which are rare), you can have pitting.

Fluorosis has been on the rise in the United States. From the 80s to the 00s, moderate and severe cases of fluorosis have approximately doubled according to the CDC.

Source: Prevalence and Severity of Dental Fluorosis in the United States, 1999-2004

How Much Toothpaste Should You Use?

Guide to Toothpaste and Kids

Generally, kids under age 2 should not be using fluoridated toothpaste. They cannot fully prevent themselves from swallowing it.

By age 2-3, kids should be brushing twice a day with just a small smear of fluoride toothpaste about the size of a grain of rice. This amount reduces the potential fluoride intake in case they accidently swallow some.

After age 3, kids should be brushing twice a day with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. They should, at this age, be generally trusted to use it correctly.

Source: Use of Toothpaste and Toothbrushing Patterns Among Children and Adolescents — United States, 2013–2016