Dr. Mona's Mom Blog

Dental health & fluoride – what you need to know

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There is a lot of misinformation on fluoride when it comes to your baby. Does your baby need it? Should you only use fluoride free toothpaste? What are the benefits? Let’s break it down into what you need to know, including when you should start brushing your baby’s teeth!

What is fluoride?

Fluoride is a mineral found in water, soil, and air. Many public water supplies in America have fluoride. Fluoride in toothpaste can help prevent the formation of cavities, strengthen enamel, and reverse early tooth decay.

Who is high risk for cavities? How does fluoride help?

Children who are high-risk for cavities or tooth decay and should use fluoride toothpaste include:

  • Having a primary caregiver who is high-risk for cavities (you can transmit the bacteria that causes cavities by kissing and sharing beverages)
  • More than three sugar-containing snacks or beverages a day
  • Going to bed with a bottle
  • History of cavities
  • A diet high in sugars and starches
  • Water supply that has limited or no fluoride in it

The amount of fluoride in a smear of toothpaste is not harmful to a baby, so consider using this toothpaste. This is especially important if your child is at high risk for cavities and if your water supply does not have fluoride in it.

When should we start brushing?

As soon as their teeth come in, both the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) and AAPD (American Academy of Pediatric Dentists) recommend using a soft-bristled toothbrush with fluoride toothpaste. Before your child can spit (usually around three years of age), you only need a small amount—a smear. Once they are able to spit, you can use a pea-size amount.

If you opt to use fluoride-free toothpastes, remember that they will help clean teeth, but they won’t protect teeth from tooth decay. You can opt to use this toothpaste if you feel your child is not at high-risk for cavities. But know that fluoride toothpaste in the amounts we recommend (a smear) is safe for children who can’t spit.

Practice, practice, practice. Your goal should be twice-a-day brushing by one year (sooner if possible!).

Before they get teeth, do this!

Clean the gums with a clean washcloth to wipe away any residue (when you can—don’t stress!). But do start brushing when their first tooth erupts.

When should we see a dentist?

Six months after the first tooth erupts or at one year—whichever comes first. Many parents wait until their child is older as they feel they have proper dental hygiene and no risk of cavities. Creating a dental home after one is great for dental education and incase of injuries to the mouth. Having a dentist after one can also allow your child to get more comfortable with going to a dentist. Brush up!

For more, check out episode 36 of The PedsDocTalk Podcast – The Deets on Baby Teeth.

P.S. Get my teeth guide and I’ll walk you through the symptoms and signs of teething and which unhelpful teething myths have been officially debunked!

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All information presented on this blog, my Instagram, and my podcast is for educational purposes and should not be taken as personal medical advice. These platforms are to educate and should not replace the medical judgment of a licensed healthcare provider who is evaluating a patient.

It is the responsibility of the guardian to seek appropriate medical attention when they are concerned about their child.

All opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer or hospitals I may be affiliated with.