When does my child need fluoride and how can I tell if he's getting the right amount?
Developing teeth can certainly benefit from a little fluoride. This mineral prevents tooth decay by strengthening tooth enamel and making it more resistant to acids and harmful bacteria. Most municipal water supplies are fortified with fluoride. (Call your local water authority or ask your dentist about yours.) If it isn't, or if you get your water from a well, consider buying a test kit from a hardware store to determine the fluoride level in your water supply. If it's less than .3 parts per million, ask your pediatrician whether you should give your child a supplement (the amount recommended for children under 3 is .25 milligrams per day). She can prescribe a fluoride supplement in the form of drops or chewable tablets.
A little fluoride is a good thing for your child's teeth, but swallowing too much of it over time can lead to a condition called fluorosis that can cause white spots to show up on his adult teeth. If you live in an area with fluoridated water, your child is most likely getting plenty of fluoride. Bottled water and fruit juices may also contain fluoride, although the amount is rarely listed on the label. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends waiting until your child is at least 2 to use fluoridated toothpaste. And when he does graduate to toothpaste, you should let him use only a pea-sized drop each time. This is because young children tend to swallow their toothpaste rather than spit it out. Swallowing too much toothpaste over time can lead to fluorosis.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and most pediatric dentists say it's a good idea to bring your child to a dentist around the time he turns 1, just in case there's a problem that your family doctor missed or couldn't diagnose. If your child still hasn't sprouted his first tooth by 16 months, or if you notice tooth decay, mention it to your pediatrician, who will likely refer you to a dentist.
From the Environmental Working Group website:
Fluoride is great for teeth, but it can be harmful if swallowed. High doses cause ugly blotches to stain teeth, and have neurotoxic effects. The American Dental Association recommends fluoride-free toothpaste for children under 2. For children under 6, the Centers for Disease Control recommends "child-strength" toothpastes with around 0.08% fluoride (0.075% W/V fluoride ion or sodium monofluorophosphate 0.35% or sodium fluoride 0.12%), or about 1/2 of what's found in regular strength toothpaste. Low fluoride children's toothpaste is common in the E.U. but hard to find in the U.S. If your children use a fluoride toothpaste, make sure they use a pea-sized amount and thoroughly spit and rinse.
Avoid these ingredients:
I have been wanting to find a "safe" toothpaste for my daughter but it was not clear to me which one to try. Given our options at Whole Food's, we tried one by Earth's Best. After I tried it myself, I was shocked at how sweet it is. It just does not make sense to me that toothpaste that sweet is worthwhile for my daughter. I just found the following list from the Environmental Working Group, and will start going down this list of three:
1) Tom's of Maine Natural Homeopathic-Style Whitening Toothpaste, Apricot, which has a hazard rating of 1 (out of 10). RESULTS: I decided to pass on this since it had fluoride.
2) Weleda Calendula Toothpaste, which has a hazard rating of 1 (out of 10). RESULTS: this is our current toothpaste of choice since my daughter is less than 2 years old, should not have fluoride according to the American Dental Association (discussed above in this post), and my daughter LOVES this toothpaste!
3) Colgate Toothpaste Regular, which has a hazard rating of 3 (out of 10). RESULTS: I decided to pass on this since it had fluoride.