Sarah DeBrunner is a busy mom with three energetic kids. In her Camp Hill household, brushing your teeth twice a day is a top priority. It’s also one her kids never seem to mind.
“She frequently asks to brush her teeth and then cries when the toothbrush is removed,” DeBrunner said of her youngest child. “She likes to do it all by herself, too.”
DeBrunner often supervises how much toothpaste her kids are using, but admits it’s easy for them to dispense entirely too much.
“It makes it harder because the toothpaste is really yummy,” she said. “My daughter knows when we go shopping this is the one that I like. This is bubblemint because they want it to be appealing.. But not so appealing that they try to eat it as they’re brushing their teeth.”
Kids consuming too much toothpaste with fluoride is a real concern for dentists like Dr. Gary Klein. It can lead to a condition called fluorosis, which causes aesthetic changes in children’s permanent teeth that are still developing under the gums, such as white streaks or brown spots.
“You wouldn’t let your five-year-old get their Motrin, so the same way you dispense medication here, you dispense this,” Dr. Klein said.
Dr. Klein says children need fluoride to strengthen their teeth, so supervision is key. He says kids three and up should get a dab of toothpaste the size of a pea. Kids under three should receive a dab the size of a grain of rice.
Dr. Klein said, for example, that a child dispensing toothpaste equal to a grain of rice should be able to use a travel-sized tube for up to a year.
Those recommendations really surprised DeBrunner.
“I mean that’s really a minuscule amount of toothpaste,” she said. “You wouldn’t even be able to see it…I did not know that.”
She admits it will change the way she brushes her kids’ teeth; especially little Eloise.
“Certainly I’ll be aware that she doesn’t need, and neither do the big kids, as much as I think when we’re doing toothbrushing for it to be effective,” DeBrunner said.
As for adults, Dr. Klein suggested they also only need a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. However, he said that once kids reach the age of seven, the permanent teeth are formed and fluorosis is no longer a concern.