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.