Guidelines For Fluoride Use In Young Children

Parents of young children may think their tots are too young for fluoride toothpaste and worry about the safety of fluoride for their little ones. Fluoride can be a safe and effective part of your child's oral hygiene routine beginning in infancy. Making sure children use the appropriate amount of fluoride protects their smiles and lays the foundation for a lifetime of good oral health.

The Best Defense

Fluoride protects tooth enamel from mineral loss, which keeps teeth strong. A strong layer of enamel shields teeth from acids formed by bacteria and sugars. It also repairs and strengthens areas of enamel that are weakened due to the early stages of tooth decay.

Ready for Fluoride

In the past, dentists recommended fluoride toothpaste for children over 2 years old. However, about 1 in 4 children now develop cavities before kindergarten. The current American Dental Association guidelines recommend that parents begin brushing their infant's teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice daily as soon as teeth erupt.

Infants and Toddlers

Children under the age of 3 need only a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice. This amount of toothpaste is enough to clean their teeth and prevent cavities, but will not harm children if swallowed.

Ages 3 and Up

By age 3, children are ready to begin using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Parents should still apply the toothpaste to be sure their children do not use too much. Encourage your child to try to hold the toothpaste in his or her mouth without swallowing and practice spitting it out after brushing. At 6 years old, children can start using a greater amount of toothpaste as long as they are able to spit it out without swallowing it.


Children who ingest too much fluoride can develop fluorosis, a condition in which teeth become stained and pitted from an excess of fluoride. Children can take in too much fluoride if they regularly swallow a lot of toothpaste, or if they take fluoride supplements in addition to drinking fluoridated water. Careful supervision of your child's brushing habits will help to ensure that he or she does not swallow too much toothpaste

Infant Formula

Because commercially prepared baby formula contains fluoride, infants can develop mild fluorosis if they are fed powdered formula mixed with fluoridated water. Check with your local water provider about the fluoride level in your water. A level no greater than 0.7 parts per million is safe for formula-fed babies.

At-Risk Children

Most kids with good oral hygiene don't need extra fluoride beyond toothpaste, fluoridated water and fluoride treatments at their dental visits. However, orthodontic appliances, dry mouth and a diet high in carbohydrates put kids at greater risk of tooth decay. Children fitting these criteria may benefit from a fluoride rinse or supplement prescribed by the dentist, especially if their primary water supply is fluoride-deficient.  

For more information, contact Canyon Dental or a similar location.