Parents should use toothpaste with stronger concentrations of fluoride to prevent tooth decay in their children, a new report says.
Researchers found that toothpaste that contained fluoride concentrations less than 1,000 parts per million were only as effective at preventing tooth decay as non-fluoride products.
The study, carried out by the Cochrane Oral Health Group, based at the University of Manchester, has previously shown that fluoride toothpastes reduce dental decay by 24 per cent.
The group’s latest research, which involved 79 trials on 73,000 children worldwide, also suggested that brushing a child’s teeth with a fluoride toothpaste before the age of 12 months could lead to an increased risk of developing mild fluorosis.
Children’s toothpastes currently range from 100 parts per million to 1,400 parts per million.
Swallowing large amounts of toothpaste can still cause fluorosis in children up to the age of six, when the permanent teeth are still developing, but using a small amount can reduce these risks, according to the report.
Dr Anne-Marie Glenny, one of the report’s authors, said: ‘It is very confusing for parents to know how to strike the right balance, which isn’t helped by the fact that different companies use different concentrations of fluoride in their toothpastes aimed at children.
‘From a public health point of view, the risk of tooth decay and its consequences such as pain and extractions is greater than the small risk of fluorosis.
‘Children would have to swallow a lot of toothpaste over a long period of time to get the severe brown mottling on the teeth, as opposed to the more typical mild white patches.
‘For children that are considered to be at a high risk of tooth decay by their dentist, the benefit to health of preventing decay is likely to outweigh the risk of fluorosis.
‘In such cases, careful brushing of their children’s teeth by parents with a small amount of toothpaste containing higher levels of fluoride would be beneficial.’
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• Walsh T, et al. Fluoride toothpastes of different concentrations for preventing dental caries in children and adolescents . Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 1.
• Jan 19, 2010: Best Fluoride Levels Determined for Children’s Toothpastes