Your Child is Addicted to Toothpaste: What Should You Do?

It’s for their teeth, not their belly

Written by: Dr. Nijam

September 03, 2020

For some children, brushing their teeth is more than just a good hygiene practice, it is also their “snack time.” Kid-friendly flavoured toothpastes were invented to encourage children to brush their teeth. They come in different fun colours (and sometimes glitter too!), packaging designs, candy-like scents and flavours. As more and more parents worry about their child’s dental hygiene, the best way to entice a child into regular, and thorough, brushing is finding a toothpaste they like.

“My child swallowed some toothpaste, should I be worried?”

Most toothpastes contain fluoride to help strengthen our teeth and prevent tooth decay. Even in most children’s toothpastes, there is fluoride but the concentration is much lower than adult’s. This special ingredient is what makes our teeth more resistant to acids found in food and beverages. Children can, however, get fluoride from other sources such as drinking water. Other natural sources of dietary fluoride include tea, fish, and vegetables such as spinach. Nevertheless, if your child is swallowing too much toothpaste, they may run the risk of developing ‘fluorosis’ on their permanent teeth. This may result in the change of colour and texture of your child’s teeth.

To prevent this, you can control the amount of toothpaste your child is using. For kids under 3, a smear of children’s toothpaste is enough; for kids between the ages of 3-6, use a pea-sized amount. In this case, if your child swallows their toothpaste, it is not as harmful. However, do note that if your little one accidentally swallowed a large amount of toothpaste, they may experience an upset stomach.

“My child won’t stop eating toothpaste, how do I stop it?”

#1 Do not leave your child
unattended when
brushing their teeth

Do not leave your child unattended when brushing their teeth

#1 Do not leave your
child unattended when
brushing their teeth

Firstly, you should not let your child brush their teeth without an adult’s supervision if you fear for their safety. While you’re watching, you can also take the opportunity to show them the correct way of brushing. After all, it is important to start young when inculcating healthy habits, and parents should lead by example.

#2 Apply the toothpaste for them

Apply the toothpaste for them

#2 Apply the toothpaste
for them

As mentioned earlier, one of the ways to prevent your little one from ingesting more toothpaste is to control their usage. Treat toothpastes like medicines—hide it away in a cabinet or somewhere out of their reach. This way, you can rest assured that your child is not consuming an excessive amount of toothpaste.

#3 Make sure they spit it out

Make sure they spit it out

#3 Make sure they spit it out

Show your child that toothpaste is not meant to be swallowed by making sure they spit it out after brushing. Then, teach them to rinse their mouth with water to ensure that there is no residual toothpaste. Your child will develop permanent front teeth at about 7-8 years old. So if they have been ingesting a high amount of fluoride at about 2 years of age, those permanent front teeth are at risk of fluorosis where white or brown spots will appear on the surface of the teeth.

#4 What about babies?

What about babies

#4 What about babies?

When brushing your baby’s teeth, angle their head slightly downward so that any extra toothpaste can dribble out of their mouth. Otherwise, you can use teeth and gum wipes meant for babies to remove any excess toothpaste. Same goes with toddlers. Although it is safe for them to consume a small amount of toothpaste, it is still better to be watchful of them. If your child is not capable of spitting out the toothpaste yet, opt for fluoride-free toothpaste for starters.

#5 Switch to a more minty toothpaste

Switch to a more minty toothpaste

#5 Switch to a more minty toothpaste

As your child gets a little older, you can start looking for a slightly mint-flavoured toothpaste. This is a good trick to deter them from eating toothpaste as it is not as enjoyable as the fruity ones they were used to. However, you need to be careful when buying mint-flavoured toothpaste. Since they are mainly catered to older children and adults, it might be too strong for your little one.

In general, children’s toothpastes contain a fluoride concentration of less than 600ppm (parts per million) while adult’s have a fluoride concentration of 1,000-2,500ppm. Children should, therefore, NOT use an adult’s toothpaste and only use toothpaste specifically made for them.

If your child (or you) is due for a dental checkup, come book an appointment with us!

Have a specific topic that you would like us to talk about? Just let us know!

Journal References:

1) American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs. (2014). Fluoride toothpaste use for young children. Journal of the American Dental Association (1939), 145(2), 190.

2) Pretty, I. A. (2016). High fluoride concentration toothpastes for children and adolescents. Caries Research, 50(Suppl. 1), 9-14.

3) Ismail, A. I., & Hasson, H. (2008). Fluoride supplements, dental caries and fluorosis: a systematic review. the Journal of the american Dental association, 139(11), 1457-1468.

4) Ammari, A. B., Bloch-Zupan, A., & Ashley, P. F. (2003). Systematic review of studies comparing the anti-caries efficacy of children’s toothpaste containing 600 ppm of fluoride or less with high fluoride toothpastes of 1,000 ppm or above. Caries research, 37(2), 85-92.

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