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When can I start using fluoride toothpaste for my child?

The answer is simple, when your child has teeth, you can start using fluoride. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry has specific guidelines on how much you should use and it is very important to follow these recommendations to prevent cavities but also ensure your child does not receive too much fluoride. From the eruption of the first tooth to age 3, you can use a smear amount of fluoridated toothpaste. From age 3 to 6, use no more than a pea size amount when brushing. As a guideline, parents should be the main brushers until a child can independently tie their shoes and continue to monitor their child’s ability to spit out the toothpaste when finished.

How about a fluoride mouthwash? Generally, fluoridated mouth rinses are not recommended until a child gets older and understands how to spit out the toothpaste. Most of the time, this is around the age of 8. If you chose to incorporate a mouth rinse into your child’s routine, use this in between brushing (like after a meal) or before brushing. Mouth rinses have a lower concentration of fluoride than toothpaste so if you use it afterwards, you are actually diluting it!

How much fluoride is too much? It is important to keep any dental product with fluoride out of reach of young children and always be the one to put the toothpaste on the brush to make sure your child does not receive too much. There is not a specific amount that is ‘too much’ as it depends on the weight/age of your child. If you ever find your child consuming large amounts of toothpaste or fluoridated mouth rinse, call the poison control hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

Dr. Jenn Feingold is the Pediatric Dentist at The Children's Dental Center located in Coralville, IA. Call 319-626-5437

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