SHOULD YOUR CHILD USE FLUORIDE TOOTHPASTE?

The Answer is Yes! The sooner the better.

Fluoride is a chemical ion that is naturally occurring in water, food, and soil. Fluoride is also synthesized in laboratories to be added to drinking water or used in a variety of products. Fluoride is most commonly associated with dental hygiene products and tooth protection. For more information on fluoride, check out our previous articles titled “What is Fluoride” or “Fluoride in Your Drinking Water.”

Starting at birth, use a soft bristled infant toothbrush or a wet cloth to clean your child’s gums. As soon as teeth begin to appear, start brushing twice daily using fluoridated toothpaste and a soft age-appropriate size toothbrush. Use just a smear of toothpaste when brushing for children 2 and under. This way, if the child is unable to spit, and swallows most of the toothpaste, it is not harmful.

Starting at age 2, dispense a small pea-size amount of toothpaste on a toothbrush and brush for your child. Remember that young children do not have the ability or dexterity to brush their own teeth effectively. Children should spit out, not swallow, excess toothpaste after brushing. Parents should continue assisting their child with brushing at least once per day until the child is 18.

How do you know if your child is getting enough fluoride? Have your pediatric dentist evaluate the fluoride level of your child’s primary source of drinking water. If the child lives in a community that is not fluoridated and/or drinks bottled water without fluoride, then your pediatric dentist pay prescribe fluoride supplements. Fluoride’s main effect occurs after the tooth has erupted above the gum. This topical effect happens when small amounts of fluoride are maintained in the mouth via saliva and dental plaque.

Fluoride toothpaste helps keep the enamel of the teeth sturdy, but can be harmful to children under the age of 6 if used excessively. Children sometimes swallow more toothpaste than necessary when brushing their teeth. If more fluoride is ingested than is needed, children may develop Enamel Fluorosis. Enamel Fluorosis is a discoloration of tooth enamel. Half a tube of fluoride toothpaste can be fatal to a small child. This is why children should always be supervised when brushing their teeth.

Using fluoride toothpaste alone will not ensure healthy teeth in your child. Parents should take their children to the dentist regularly, beginning with the eruption of the first tooth. The dentist can then recommend a routine of brushing, flossing, and other treatments for parents to supervise and teach their children. Brushing regularly at home, when added to regular dental visits and a balanced diet, will help give your child a lifetime of healthy habits.

ORTHODONTICS: IS IT NECESSARY AND WHEN?

An Orthodontist is a specialist that corrects a malocclusion or “bad bite”, involving teeth that are crowded or crooked. Orthodontists attend dental school, then complete an additional two to three years of education in an accredited orthodontic residency program. Orthodontists are also specialist in dento-facial orthopedics—this signifies that an orthodontist has expertise not only in aligning teeth, but also in the correcting the alignment of the jaw. A person may seek the services of an orthodontist for cosmetic reasons as well as health reasons.

Reasons for orthodontic treatment vary greatly—often problems that affect the normal development of teeth is hereditary. Other times the development problems occur for no apparent reason. A third reason is when a person’s teeth and jaw are damaged in an accident or as a result of activities such as thumb sucking. In children, crooked or abnormally arranged teeth are no usually an immediate health problem, but may later affect the development of the child’s teeth, mouth, and jaw. In severe cases, such abnormal development can affect a child’s physical appearance as they grow.

Here are some of the common reasons why a patient is referred to an orthodontist:

  • Protruding upper front teeth—one of the most common reasons for needing orthodontic treatment, particularly as the teeth may be more prone to damage during falls or contact sports.
  • Crowding—people with narrow jaws often lack enough space for their teeth, resulting in crowding.
  • Impacted teeth—an adult tooth that is unable to come in on its own. Usually requires surgical assistance from an orthodontist or oral surgeon.
  • Asymmetrical teeth—in some people, the center of the upper and lower teeth do not match, giving their teeth an asymmetrical or crooked appearance.
  • Deep bite—the upper teeth cover too much of the lower teeth.
  • Anterior cross bite—the upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth.
  • Open bite—the upper and lower front teeth do not meet when the mouth is closed; an open bite often occurs as a result of prolonged thumb sucking.

Malocclusions often become noticeable between the ages of 6 and 12, as the child’s permanent teeth come in. Orthodontic treatment usually begins between the ages of 8 and 14. Treatment that begins while a child is growing helps produce optimal results. In severe cases of malocclusion treatment may begin at an even younger age. Children should have an orthodontic consult no later than the age of 8. By then they have a mix of primary teeth and permanent teeth. Your child’s dentist can spot problems with emerging teeth and jaw growth early on, while the primary teeth are present. This is yet another reason why regular dental examinations are so important.

Our next blog is for those of you wondering if your child should be using fluoridated toothpaste.

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