This is for all you great mothers out there who are always thinking about your children and how to keep them safe, happy and healthy.  A major aspect of raising your children is caring for their teeth.  I never knew that brushing teeth twice a day could become such a chore until I had four mouths to clean every day– my own and my three kids!  So here’s my two cents on children and toothpaste.

Before I had kids I went to school and became a dental hygienist, so I know a lot about caring for teeth.  I am trying to apply this as I raise my own children.  Just thought I would pass along a little bit of information that came to my attention the other day… again!

In case you were not aware of this fact, children under five years of age should NOT have fluoridated toothpaste.  Kids under that age are not capable of spitting as well as they need to in order to not swallow harmful levels of toothpaste.

I just went to the store to buy toothpaste for my little boys, age 4 and 2.  Of course they wanted to choose the “cool” toothpaste– you know what I’m talking about.  Disney Pixar’s “Cars” and Marvel’s “Spiderman” themed toothpaste containers really caught their attention.  But, looking at the Active Ingredients list, the first one listed on every tube of children’s toothpaste was Sodium Flouride.

One might argue that kids’ teeth need the extra fluoride that they may get from swallowing a little bit of toothpaste here and there.  However, what most people don’t realize is that fluoride is a potentially dangerous chemical and can cause some serious harm if swallowed in excessive amounts.  Now, take this dangerous substance and make it bubble gum flavored.  If you think that a one, two, three, or four year old wouldn’t eat that any chance they got, you’ve probably never had kids of your own.

In addition to this, most cities in the United States add Fluoride to the waterways in order to benefit the teeth of children.  This means of course that children are exposed to plenty of fluoride during their teeth’s formative years; possibly even excessive fluoridation over time.

Studies have shown that fluoride is beneficial to the teeth when given topically (meaning placed on the teeth), but are inconclusive when it comes to systemic fluoridation (meaning fluoride eaten or swallowed and reaching the teeth through the blood stream).   One thing is certain though, more studies need to be done to see what the long term benefits and risks are for exposing ourselves and our children to fluoride– both for the teeth and for the body as a whole.

Fluoride in toothpaste, however, has long been known to cause problems in children who are unable to rinse and spit sufficiently enough because of their age and physical capabilities.  Fluoride swallowed in excessive amounts can cause an upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, and any number of other problems.  Even fluoride swallowed in tiny amounts at a time can build up and cause numerous problems in later years– problems that we may not even know we are causing yet!

So, because I know all of this and I want to do what is best for my kids, which is to not use Fluoridated toothpaste until they are old enough, I have to deprive them of their cartoon character toothpaste tubes and shop for their toothpaste on the baby aisle.  Baby tooth and gum cleanser with sorbitol (a different form of sugar that does not allow bacteria to grow) instead of sodium fluoride is the safest bet until children reach five years of age and can spit and rinse properly.

This probably comes as a shock to all of you great mothers out there who are concerned for the health of your children’s teeth and get them children’s toothpaste with all the fun characters as an incentive to promote good tooth brushing habits.  Hooray for you!  But, keep in mind that if you do allow them to use fluoride toothpaste that you should always monitor them and make sure that none gets swallowed.  Treat it like your bathroom cleansers, meaning keep it away from children when not under adult supervision.

And remember, good habits start young!  So by all means teach your kids to brush their teeth several times a day and to eat healthy foods so they don’t have to deal with all the problems that come from tooth decay (cavities) and weight issues.

Just like every mother I want the best for my kids, and so I just thought I would pass along this tidbit of information for you to thinkabout and watch out for.  From past experiences I know that fluoridation can be a controversial subject.  So, let’s get talking.  Let me know if you have any questions or comments by leaving a comment below!