When my daughter was a toddler, she loathed brushing her teeth, but once we found a toothpaste flavour she enjoyed (pink bubble gum, of course), her perspective immediately shifted to “OOOH CANDY!”
Every time I squeezed some onto her toothbrush, she complained, “That’s so little!” She wanted a whole mouthful of the stuff, and though I knew I could not let her have it, I only vaguely knew why.
Now there’s confirmation from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention: It’s not good for the teeth. Swallowing too much fluoride over long periods can discolor and pit children’s permanent enamel structure—a condition called fluorosis. And lots of young brushers are at risk.
According to a recent CDC study, nearly 40 per cent of kids ages 3 to 6 use more toothpaste than recommended amount, which is “a pea-sized amount.” Those younger than 3 should use just a “smear,” the size of a grain of rice.
Here’s a handy visual:
— Magnolia Family Dental Care (@Magnolia_Tulsa) March 4, 2019
This can be confusing for little kids. Common depictions of the teeth-brushing process feature children squeezing toothpaste with abandon. That is why until your kid has developed the awareness and dexterity to apply the proper amount, you as a parent should do it for them.
As for when to start brushing your kid’s teeth? The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry says the sooner the better: “Starting at birth, clean your child’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water. Parents should use a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste to brush baby teeth twice daily as soon as they erupt and a soft, age-appropriate sized toothbrush.”