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  • Your Toddler Has Cavities Already? She Might Be Using Too Much Toothpaste

    As this new study shows from CDC on toothbrushing practices, too much of a good thing can be bad.
    by Kate Borbon .
Your Toddler Has Cavities Already? She Might Be Using Too Much Toothpaste
  • A recently published study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that most children use too much toothpaste when brushing their teeth, which can cause dental caries or tooth decay.

    The CDC study, which was released online in February 2019, observed the toothbrushing practices of over 5,000 children ages 3 to 15 years old. The researchers gathered responses from the children’s parents or caregivers, who were asked questions revolving around when the kids started brushing their teeth, how much toothpaste they use, and how often they brush their teeth.

    Based on the data gleaned throughout the study, researchers found that 40 percent of children aged 3 to 6 commonly used either a half or a full load of toothpaste whenever they brushed their teeth — an amount that is much more than is recommended for children of those ages.

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    Why is too much toothpaste wrong for kids?

    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children use toothpaste containing fluoride when brushing their teeth. Fluoride, a naturally-occurring mineral which is also found in different types of food and added to drinking water, helps strengthen tooth enamel, making teeth more resistant to tooth decay.

    But despite its many health benefits, the CDC points out that ingestion of more than the recommended amount of fluoride, especially for children whose teeth are still developing, “can result in visibly detectable changes in enamel structure such as discoloration and pitting (dental fluorosis).”

    If a child uses too much toothpaste when she brushes his teeth, she may end up getting splotches and streaks on her teeth as she grows older.


    Dental tips for parents

    When it comes to fostering healthy toothbrushing habits in kids, the CDC says parents have a crucial role, not only in teaching children how to brush their teeth but also in making sure to supervise their fluoride intake.

    “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,” the report says.

    Here are some tips to help moms and dads protect their kids’ dental health.

    Parents have a huge role in teaching their kids healthy dental habits.
    PHOTO BY iStock

    Mind the amount and type of toothpaste

    Discussing the study, the CDC, along with the AAP, the American Dental Association (ADA), and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), recommends that children below 3 years old use only a smear of toothpaste or the size of a grain of rice. Kids ages 3 to 6 are advised to use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.

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    Though the CDC recommends fluoride toothpaste for kids, the organization also advises parents to consult first with their doctor or dentist before introducing this type of toothpaste to their children, especially if the kids are below 2 years of age.

    Start early

    Another finding of the CDC study is that 80 percent of the children surveyed started brushing their teeth at 3 years old or above, which is later than the recommended age. The AAP says that steps to avoid tooth decay in children should ideally begin as early as possible, specifically, when a child gets her first tooth. Start by using a soft-bristled toothbrush designed to clean babies’ teeth and a smear of toothpaste.

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    Supervise your child

    Parents have a very big role in instilling healthy dental habits in their kids, so don’t forget to be present whenever it is time for your child to brush her teeth. The AAP says that it is best for parents to be the ones to put toothpaste on their child’s toothbrush until she is about 6 years old, to make sure she only uses the right amount. Supervising your child’s toothbrushing will also help you teach her how to hold the toothbrush, how to brush correctly, and how to spit out the excess toothpaste when she is able to.

    Brush twice a day

    To maintain optimum dental health in kids, the AAP advises parents to make sure that their children brush their teeth at least twice every day — notably after breakfast and before going to bed. Find ways to incorporate toothbrushing into your child’s daily routine, so that she is able to maintain the practice even as she grows up.


    Incorporate healthy dental habits daily

    Maintaining a child’s dental health also extends to her everyday diet. It is essential to make sure that you don’t provide your child with too much sweet, sugary foods.

    “Snacks with added sugar will make a baby get used to the sweet food and encourage sugary foods when the child grows older,” says Dr. Carina De Los Reyes. “Sugary foods can cause early dental cavities.”

    Instead of sweetened snacks, parents may instead opt to provide their kids with healthier alternatives, such as fruits and vegetables.

    One more way to prevent tooth decay in your child is to make sure she does not go to sleep with a bottle of milk formula or other liquids with sugar in it. If she needs to have a bottle, fill it instead with water, says the AAP. During daytime, parents are also advised not to give their children pacifiers dipped in anything sweet, like sugar or honey.

    What other parents are reading

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