Many parents probably feel that with children consuming increasing amounts of sweets and cola they have enough to worry about when it comes to their teeth. But a new study suggests they need to take a closer look at their children’s toothbrushing habits.
Not only are children using fluoridated toothpaste too soon, they are using too much of it, according to a report by University College Cork’s (UCC) Dental School.
The risk associated with using too much toothpaste or using it at too young an age is that children will swallow large amounts of it, which can cause dental fluorosis, a change in the appearance of tooth enamel, which can range from the appearance of white lines to pitting or staining.
The report advises parents to stop children below the age of two using toothpaste, and to closely monitor brushing by children aged two to seven. This is to ensure they do not use too much toothpaste and don’t swallow it.
With very young children, according to Dr Helen Whelton, co-director of the study, “if you put toothpaste on a brush, they’ll swallow the whole lot. The older they are, the better they are able to spit it out.”
She suggested parents should begin brushing their children’s teeth as soon as possible, but cautioned they should put only water on the toothbrush of children less than two years old.
Research for the project was conducted by groups from seven countries: the Republic, the UK, the Netherlands, Finland, Greece, Portugal and Iceland.
Researchers visited the homes of 1,094 children aged 1-1/2 to 3-1/2 and observed parents brushing their children’s teeth, Dr Whelton said. In the Republic, 165 children from Cork were surveyed; 82 per cent of parents said they used fluoridated toothpaste on children younger than two years old, she noted.
Although most toothpaste products advise parents to use only a pea-sized amount, only 4 per cent of parents in Cork said they were aware of that advice. Although 71 per cent of tap water in the Republic is fluoridated, the amount of fluoride in the water is negligible and unlikely to cause any harm, Dr Whelton added.
The study was published in the journal Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology.