In the world of parenting, nothing feels more daunting than not knowing whether or not a product is safe for your children. When it comes to toothpaste, fluoride, which is a major component in toothpaste that is known for its enamel strengthening qualities, is no stranger to controversy. In this post, we’ll take a look at fluoride for babies and whether it is helpful or harmful to your baby’s overall health.
Is Fluoride Safe For Babies?
In a nutshell, no.
Studies show that fluoride can have damaging effects in babies and can contribute to a variety of ailments that far outweigh any good that comes from ingesting it.
Having said that, many doctors and dentists today recommend fluoride as a preventive measure to keep baby teeth healthy and strong. So, what’s the reason behind the opposing views?
The difference is the amount of fluoride given to your baby. Fluoride can be found not only in toothpaste, but also in water. Some doctors are now even recommending fluoride supplements for babies and toddlers. Thus, it is easy to overdo fluoride which can easily result in negative health effects in children in the UK.
What Is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a component often added to toothpastes, and now municipal tap water, that is naturally also found in the body. Calcium fluoride is naturally occurring in our bones and teeth, and adding additional fluoride to our daily life can help strengthen our teeth and bones. The following are other purported benefits of fluoride:
- Reversing Tooth Decay
- Prevent Cavities
- Limit Bacterial Growth
- Retention of Minerals Found in Teeth
- Strengthening Enamel
When Can You Give a Baby Fluoride?
Can babies have fluoride water?
Babies can technically have fluoridated water in the UK, but again, if this water isn’t your baby’s only source of fluoride, you may be overdoing it.
To be safe, stick to a non-fluoridated toothpaste if you are already giving your baby fluoridated water and do not supplement your baby with additional fluoride drops.
Once your child reaches 3 years of age, you may safely brush their teeth with a fluoride toothpaste as they now harness the ability to spit it back out.
It is also important to note that babies who drink formula instead of breastmilk are consuming vast amounts of fluoride per day if their formula is being prepared from tap water rather than bottled water.
And though the levels of fluoride have been lowered in municipal water since 2015, it still poses a major threat to children who consume large amounts of tap water in their diet, daily.
See Is Fluoride in Drinking Water Healthy For Kids for more details about how to prevent your little one from overexposure to fluoride through drinking water.
How much fluoride is safe for babies?
Up until age 3, the recommendation is that your little one receive no more than .25 mg of fluoride per day. If you must brush your baby’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste, it is imperative that you use only the amount of toothpaste that would be equivalent to the size of a grain of rice. Any more than that could cause issues for your baby.
Remember, your baby cannot deliberately spit and whatever toothpaste he or she takes in their mouth will likely be swallowed. In large amounts, fluoride is dangerous to both babies and adults. Thus, you will need to do all you can to limit your baby’s exposure to too much fluoride.
Overconsumption of toothpaste, such as eating a whole tube, can have the following purported reactions:
- Spitting Up Blood
- Stomach Pain
Do babies get fluoride from breast milk?
Breast milk contains little to no fluoride. As such, infants are sometimes prescribed fluoride supplements. Yet despite the doctor’s orders, fluoride supplementation is not recommended for children under the age of 6 months. In fact, it still might not be recommended if your baby is already drinking municipal water.
For more information, see your local paediatrician for details. Also, be sure to use your own judgement and do your research as ongoing studies are still being performed on the topic.
When should babies use toothpaste?
Do babies need toothpaste with fluoride?
Unfortunately, doctors and dentists have mixed opinions concerning the use of fluoridated toothpaste. Recent studies are showing more and more cases of children whose new emerging teeth appear “chalky” or spotted white. Indeed, it seems that if your child is already consuming municipal water with added fluoride, you will not need to use fluoridated toothpaste. This may exceed the recommended amount of fluoride your baby needs in a day.
Having said that, fluoridated toothpaste has much greater concentrations of fluoride in it than water. If your baby does not drink municipal water and you choose to use fluoride toothpaste to make up for it, it is imperative that you use only a grain sized amount of toothpaste each time. Some parents have even tried alternating fluoridated and non-fluoridated toothpastes to limit fluoride exposure.
If your baby or toddler has bad breath and you find yourself wanting to use more toothpaste than what is considered safe to rid your child of the smell, consider reading our post about eliminating odour from your baby or toddler’s breath, as their breath may be an indicator of underlying issues.
Why can’t babies have fluoride toothpaste?
Fluoride toothpaste, when swallowed, can have harrowing effects on your little one’s developing digestive system. Fluoride can cause abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal ailments. It also potentially has a negative impact on the quality of emerging teeth, depending on the amount of fluoride consumed.
Rather than take the risk, many dentists and paediatricians recommend that you use only a “training” toothpaste. This is a toothpaste that is void of fluoride, for the first 3 years of life. This guarantees that your child will be able to spit the toothpaste out when it is time, rather than to ingest it as most babies do.
As previously mentioned, however, if you must use a fluoridated toothpaste, only use one that is designed for children. But even then, only use a rice-sized amount. Any more than that is bound to cause issues down the road, especially on a long-term basis.
What toothpaste is safe for babies?
In general, your best bet is to give your baby a grain of rice sized amount of non-fluoridated toothpaste up until the age of 3. Age 3 is around the age that your baby will be able to spit.
It is true that even when you use non-fluoridated toothpaste, your baby or toddler may not like the taste. They may not even like the process of getting his or her teeth brushed. This is normal.
Try experimenting with various brands to see which works best for your child. Found a good toothpaste?Position your child’s body so that they are turned away from you and then lean them backward, onto your lap.
From this angle, you will have better control over your child. You’ll also be able to see the teeth more clearly. Brush their teeth as usual, targeting even bare gums.
You may also use a rubber gum massager such as the one found in this kit per la cura del bambino
to allow your baby to explore the texture of a toothbrush on their gums in a non-threatening manner.
Never let a baby or toddler “brush” their teeth on their own if using fluoridated toothpaste.
How do you apply fluoride to a baby’s teeth?
Fluoride varnish is a fluoride treatment that is applied directly to a baby or toddler’s teeth. This practise is said to strengthen the enamel and to prevent tooth decay.
If you choose to have your baby or toddler’s teeth coated with fluoride varnish, you must allow a professional to do it. Contact your local dentist for more details.
Does my child need fluoride treatment?
Whether or not your child will need fluoride treatment will depend largely on the condition of their teeth, their lifestyle and their overall oral health. In order for these things to be accurately assessed, you should schedule an appointment with your local paediatric dentist to see if fluoride treatment is recommended for your child.
Should my child take fluoride supplements?
Your child will most likely not need fluoride supplementation unless he or she isn’t already drinking city tap water. If your child is receiving no fluoride in his or her day, you may speak to a doctor or paediatrician about fluoride drops. See All About Fluoride Drops For Infants for information.
Fluoride For Babies Isn’t Always Necessary
In summary, fluoride for babies isn’t always necessary. In fact, there is strong evidence that proves fluoride could actually be harmful to your child in large doses.
To make an informed decision, it is recommended you speak with your local paediatrician or dentist. They will help you determine whether or not fluoride is the right choice for your baby.
For even more information, check out Should You Be Worried About Fluoride Toothpaste e Using Fluoride in Infants and Children.