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Seeing baby’s first tooth can be really exciting. How cute she looks when she smiles with a new tooth! Now, it’s time to take care of that tooth, right? Actually, baby’s dental care starts even before she has teeth. I will talk about it more below. After baby has her teeth though, your dentist may tell you to use fluoride toothpaste for your baby. However, you will find that most of baby toothpastes are fluoride-free. Which one is right? Should you be using a baby fluoride toothpaste or fluoride-free toothpaste for your baby? Let’s see how you can take care of baby’s teeth properly.
Cleaning Baby’s Gums
You should clean baby’s gums with a clean, damp washcloth before baby has teeth. This will start your baby with a good habit of keeping mouth clean. It will also create a healthy oral environment for emerging teeth. You can simply wrap your finger with a clean, wet cloth or gauze and wipe all parts of baby’s gums. Toothpaste is not needed until baby has teeth. Some parents use convenient baby’ tooth and gum wipes (dental wipes) to wipe baby’s gums. You can also wipe baby’s teeth with baby dental wipes. However, I think the best way to clean baby’s gums at this stage is to use a clean washcloth. (Check out The Good Baby 100% Organic Turkish Cotton Baby Washcloths.)
After Baby’s First Tooth
Using A Baby Fluoride Toothpaste
The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that baby see a dentist when her first tooth appears or at one year old. American Dental Association also recommends that you should brush baby’s teeth and gums as soon as baby’s first tooth appears. Parents should be the ones brushing their child’s teeth when she is under 3 years old. They should brush baby’s teeth twice a day.
In the past, fluoride toothpaste wasn’t recommended to use for children under 3 years old. If fluoride is applied or swallowed too much by baby, she could get dental fluorosis, a condition that leads to brown spots and staining of the teeth. It is caused by too much fluoride applied during years teeth develops inside the jawbone. When baby gets her teeth brushed, she can’t spit out the toothpaste so a fluoride baby toothpaste wasn’t recommended. However, now, American Dental Association recommends to use a fluoride toothpaste to prevent tooth decay even for babies under 3 (only a rice grain sized portion). They recommend fluoride toothpaste especially for babies who have a high risk of developing tooth decay. They say that a rice grain sized amount of fluoride toothpaste should be safe for babies under 3. (read ADA uses Fluoride Toothpaste to Fight High Cavity Rate In Children. and Dental Group Advises Fluoride Toothpaste Before Age of 2.)
However, Fluoride is known to be toxic to our body. Chronic exposure to Fluoride can cause dental fluorosis, crippling skeletal fluorosis, arthritis, bone fracture, brain effects, cancer, cardiovascular disease, endocrine disruption, kidney disease, thyroid disease, etc. (read Fluoride & Health) Some cities contain fluoride in public water and baby may already get fluoride from water when using water for an infant formula, for example. A bottle-fed baby drinking fluoridated water (0.6 – 1.2 ppm) can get up to 300 times more fluoride than a breast-fed baby. Using a fluoride toothpaste on top of drinking public water can supply too much fluoride for a baby. On top of that, only about half of ingested fluoride gets discharged and the rest accumulates in the body. Babies and children can take up to 80% of ingested fluoride into their bones. (Read 50 Reasons To Oppose Fluoridation.)
Using A Fluoride-Free Baby Toothpaste
If you want to avoid using a fluoride toothpaste, you can get a fluoride-free baby toothpaste. It is also called a training toothpaste. Some of the fluoride free baby toothpastes use organic or natural ingredients. However, just because a toothpaste is fluoride-free or has organic, natural ingredients doesn’t mean the toothpaste is safe. Most toothpastes contain toxic ingredients that are harmful to a baby. For example, Toms of Maine toothpaste is a natural toothpaste with no artificial preservatives, colors, sweeteners, flavors, fragrances, and other additives. However, it contains Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) which can cause cancer. Also, Honest Company Kids toothpaste is free of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), sulfates, saccharin, fluoride, artificial sweeteners, triclosan, artificial flavors, parabens, gluten & dyes but it still contains carrageenan. Carrageenan is linked to gastrointestinal inflammation, intestinal lesions, ulcerations, and even malignant tumors. (read my previous posting ‘Safe Baby Toothpaste Guide – Most Baby Toothpastes Are Toxic!‘)
However, a baby toothpaste without toxic ingredients is safe for a baby to swallow. Therefore, it can be used for children under 3 years old or for babies who can’t spit out the toothpaste yet. Some of the fluoride-free toothpastes use Xylitol instead of fluoride. Xylitol is naturally occurring sugar alcohol in many fruits and vegetables. Xylitol helps keep a neutral PH level in the mouth. It also prevents bacteria from sticking to the teeth and protects teeth from tooth decay. (read about Xylitol Health Benefits and Potential Side Effects)
Which Toothpaste To Use?
Your pediatrician or pediatric dentist will recommend to use either fluoride-free toothpaste or fluoride toothpaste for your baby. Using a fluoride-free baby toothpaste can avoid a chance of developing dental fluorosis from too much fluoride applied or swallowed. Also, baby won’t have to swallow fluoride although a rice grain size is a tiny amount. Fluoride is still a toxic substance.
However, American Dental Association and many dentists say a fluoride toothpaste is a better choice for preventing tooth decay if your baby has a high risk of developing tooth decay. They also say fluoride toothpaste is safe for babies if only a rice grain sized amount of fluoride toothpaste is used at each brush. So is fluoride toothpaste needed?
Dr. David Okano from University of Utah Health says that you do not need toothpaste to remove the dental plaque from your teeth. The mechanical action of your toothbrush and your dental floss will remove the dental plaque so toothpaste is not as important. However, all things being equal, you would see less potential for tooth decay with the fluoride toothpaste than non-fluoride toothpaste. He said that Flouride helps reduce the demineralization process and also helps tooth remineralize. (Read Are there benefits to using fluoride-free toothpaste?)
So fluoride toothpaste is more effective in preventing tooth decay than fluoride-free toothpaste. However, fluoride is still a highly toxic substance although experts say a rice grain sized amount of fluoride is safe to swallow. Also, for a baby who drinks formula made with public water can be over exposed to fluoride which can be harmful. Too much fluoride can have harmful health effects to a baby and it also can cause dental fluorosis. In my opinion, fluoride has too much risks compared to the benefit it offers. I feel more comfortable and safe using fluoride-free natural baby toothpaste for my baby.
If your baby has a high risk of developing tooth decay, you should see a pediatric dentist to discuss what will be the best option for your baby. Also, establishing a good habit of keeping mouth clean every day will prevent tooth decay. For example, if baby falls a sleep while breastfeeding or bottle feeding, it can cause cavities. During sleep, baby doesn’t produce saliva as much, therefore, there is less natural self-cleansing going on in her mouth. Therefore, dentists recommend not to offer milk or juice after sleeping time. They also recommend that baby should graduate from drinking from a bottle to drinking from a cup by her first birthday. Try to avoid sweets and sugar for your baby. Also, be sure to brush baby’s teeth thoroughly before sleeping and after waking up. Establishing a good oral daily routine is as important as choosing the right toothpaste for your baby. It will help your baby prevent tooth decay.
Read my next post ‘Safe Baby Toothpaste Guide – Most Baby Toothpastes Are Toxic!‘ Most baby and toddler toothpastes contain toxic ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), carageenan or parabens. Even many natural toothpaste have them as their ingredients. Find out what ingredients are toxic and which toothpastes are safe.