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This month I answer your questions on tooth brushing and toothpaste.
Q. When should I start cleaning my child’s mouth and brushing my child’s teeth?
A. Parents should start wiping their child’s mouth in infancy prior to eruption of the first tooth with a soft cloth and water. As soon as the first tooth emerges, you can use an infant toothbrush (small, soft bristled) with a rice-sized smear of fluoride toothpaste. Introduce flossing as soon as there are contacts between the teeth (teeth touching side by side).
Q. What toothpaste should I use for my child?
A. This is a difficult question to answer in specific terms for numerous reasons; mainly because toothpastes often vary between and even within brand names. This variance includes which ingredients are included and in which amounts. Children’s training toothpastes, tooth gels, regular fluoride toothpaste, whitening, tartar control, and natural toothpastes are just some of the numerous different dentifrices out there. Parents should discuss with their children’s dentist which toothpaste would be right for their child on an individual basis.
Generally speaking, I recommend toothpastes that are approved by the American Dental Association (ADA). The ADA seal means it has been tested and has met their approval for “safety and efficacy”. I understand some have concerns about using toothpastes with certain ingredients. If this is the case, then please discuss this individually with your child’s dentist.
Q. How much toothpaste should I use for my child?
A. I recommend following the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry guidelines. The AAPD “encourages the brushing of teeth with appropriate amounts of fluoride toothpaste (e.g., no more than a smear or rice-sized amount for children less than three years of age; no more than a pea-sized amount for children aged three to six) twice daily for all children.” Of course, we want our children to spit out the excess toothpaste and not swallow it.
I believe there is a lot of research and hard work put into making the ADA’s and AAPD’s guidelines. Being a member of these organizations, I do my best to follow and encourage them. My job is to pass along these oral health guidelines to my patients and parents. I am also very sensitive to the fact that many people might have their own personal concerns and reasons to stray from the guidelines I have relayed. I am always open to discussion on an individual basis about these concerns.
On a separate note…. children are the best!
The other day a 7-year-old child came to see me for their routine care. It went something like this:
Girl: (After staring at me up and down) “The last time I was here your hair was dark.”
Me: “And what color is it now?”
Girl: “White…” (more staring up and down) “even the hair on your arms is turning white.”
My Assistant: “But isn’t he handsome?”
Girl: “Not really!”