Fluoride Action Network


Fluoride use is one of the main factors responsible for the decline in prevalence and severity of dental caries and cavities (tooth decay) in the United States (1). Brushing children’s teeth is recommended when the first tooth erupts, as early as 6 months, and the first dental visit should occur no later than age 1 year (2-4). However, ingestion of too much fluoride while teeth are developing can result in visibly detectable changes in enamel structure such as discoloration and pitting (dental fluorosis) (1). Therefore, CDC recommends that children begin using fluoride toothpaste at age 2 years. Children aged <3 years should use a smear the size of a rice grain, and children aged >3 years should use no more than a pea-sized amount (0.25 g) until age 6 years, by which time the swallowing reflex has developed sufficiently to prevent inadvertent ingestion. Questions on toothbrushing practices and toothpaste use among children and adolescents were included in the questionnaire component of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for the first time beginning in the 2013-2014 cycle. This study estimates patterns of toothbrushing and toothpaste use among children and adolescents by analyzing parents’ or caregivers’ responses to questions about when the child started to brush teeth, age the child started to use toothpaste, frequency of toothbrushing each day, and amount of toothpaste currently used or used at time of survey. Analysis of 2013-2016 data found that >38% of children aged 3-6 years used more toothpaste than that recommended by CDC and other professional organizations. In addition, nearly 80% of children aged 3-15 years started brushing later than recommended. Parents and caregivers can play a role in ensuring that children are brushing often enough and using the recommended amount of toothpaste.