As parents, we always wants the best for our children, and we always wonder whether the things we did is the best for them. We always choose the best milk formula ‘with highest content of AHA,DHA, so forth’; the best diapers ‘that can stand up to 7-8 wets’, the best shoes that ‘allows the feet to grow’,.. the list goes on. Same goes when it comes to choosing dental products. The best toothpaste for our toddler must be the one with highest concentration of fluoride, since fluoride can help fight tooth decay, right?
The actual fact is, while fluoride does help in fighting tooth decay, our body (also our children’s) only need about 0.05-0.07mg fluoride /kg body weight. This can easily be achieved by drinking plain water or eating food cooked using water. In Malaysia, water fluoridation (putting fluoride into our water supply) started in Johor in 1966 and becomes a nationwide policy in 1972; and it has been significant in reducing tooth decay by strengthening the enamel (the outer layer of the tooth).
The fluoride level in our commercially available toothpaste are being regulated in between 550 – 1500 ppm (parts per million) and it is safe to be used by us, adults, for 2 reason:
- the fluoride will act as a topical supplement; i.e. it will only makes contact to the tooth surface since we do not swallow the toothpaste
- our average body weight (50-70kg) can sustain up to 0.10mg of fluoride/kg body weight, and one pea-sized toothpaste contains about 1mg of 1000 ppm fluoride. Confused? Let’s just say it’s safe for us to swallow one whole tube of toothpaste without risking any side effect.
Unfortunately, both reason is exactly why our children (age 6 months to 6 years) should not use fluoridated toothpaste. Pray tell, how can you confirm your child would not ‘accidentally’ swallow the yummy orange-flavoured toothpaste? Even though we have told them not to?
The next question you would ask would be: how does excessive fluoride consumption affects our children?
Let me introduce you to a new vocabulary:
It is a damage in tooth development, occurs between the ages of 6 months to 5 years, from the overexposure to fluoride. It will present itself as intrinsic (read: internal) staining of the permanent teeth, so the teeth will have whitish specks (mild fluorosis) up to brownish black (severe fluorosis).
Besides fluorosis, which is a known and proven side effect of excessive fluoride intake, the less known side effect is more worrisome, such as effects to their IQ and also to the kidneys and liver function in children. However, these side effects are very much debatable and more questionable. We should just leave the issue to the experts, I guess.
Trouble is, there is not many kids toothpaste that does not contain fluoride. I can introduce some brands that are available commercially, but please share with me if you know of others.
ProdentalB children’s toothpaste, retail at RM4.00 though it’s really difficult to get this in stores. I have no idea why, maybe their distribution is limited.
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that you should ban fluoridated toothpaste from your household, okay. Fluoride is extremely important in remineralizing (strengthening) tooth surface that might have early signs of decay, and the side effects are relatively small compared to the positive effects. Plus, there are treatments available for those who have fluorosis. But prevention is much better, isn’t it?
For me, I keep both fluoridated and nonfluoridated toothpaste for my daughter. I use the nonfluoridated one daily and the fluoridated one like once in 2-3 weeks. Besides that you can always monitor or help your children while they are brushing their teeth, make sure they did not swallow any of the toothpaste if you are using the fluoridated ones. Also your dentist can give your child what we call ‘fluoride therapy’- which can be done once every 3-6 months, and very beneficial for sweet-toothed children. For babies, you can opt for the First Teeth toothpaste, or your dentist should be able to prescribe your child a suitable alternative. Or you can always not use anything, the wet towel can already do wonders.