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Is Fluoride Bad for Toddlers?

By 1st Family Dental

A lot of parents want to know “is fluoride bad for toddlers“?

Following a change in guidelines from the American Dental Association a few years ago, the question whether fluoride toothpaste is safe for young children continues to circulate among parents and dentists.

For years, the ADA recommended that parents wait until age 2 to start using fluoride toothpaste with their children. However, that recommendation changed in February 2014, when the organization said parents can begin using a “smear” of fluoride toothpaste as soon as teeth begin to show.

Why would the ADA change its mind after decades of a standard policy? What does it mean for your children?

Is Fluoride Bad for Toddlers?

A Little Background on Fluoride

Fluoride is an effective way to prevent and even reverse the early signs of tooth decay. It makes the tooth structure stronger, so teeth are more resistant to acid attacks.

Many of us take in fluoride naturally through the water we drink, but not all parts of the country require that fluoride be part of the drinking water, and more and more families are choosing bottled water, which in most cases does not contain fluoride like tap water does.

Groups like ADA have long recommended brushing teeth and seeing a dentist as early as age 1, but parents tend to be undereducated in this area or they give in to toddlers who do not like brushing their teeth.

New Research on Fluoride

The 2014 change by the American Dental Association brought its recommendation in line with the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, which has long suggested the use of fluoride toothpaste as soon as teeth begin to show.

The change also came after research showing an increase in cavities among preschool age children noted by the Centers for Disease Control. In some cases, the problem was so bad that children needed to be placed under general anesthesia to have cavities filled in half of their baby teeth or more.

The hope is that introducing fluoride toothpaste into the equation earlier will help reduce the number of cavities in young children. The ADA recommends that children spit out the toothpaste after it’s applied to their teeth to avoid developing fluorosis, a condition that results in a tooth’s enamel changing color due to too much fluoride exposure. Of course, this is easier said than done with a small child. Starting early and reinforcing good habits will help put them on a path toward success.

In some cases fluoride exposure has also been linked to ADHD and other neurological conditions when too much of it is ingested. Swallowing toothpaste here and there is not a big deal, but over time it could lead to more serious problems if the habit is not corrected.

What’s Best for Your Child

Still wondering “is fluoride bad for toddlers“? Even though baby teeth do eventually come out, it can be years before that happens so it’s important to get cavities taken care of at a young age. The pain associated with cavities can often be mistaken for teething; don’t let that deter you from taking your child to a dentist as soon as he or she starts talking about any kind of mouth pain.

As far as fluoride, the key is finding the right balance between getting your child enough of it to prevent tooth decay and using so much that it puts him or her at risk for other issues.

Before deciding on whether to start using fluoride toothpaste, you should understand how much fluoride your child is already getting. Do you have it in your drinking water? If you don’t know the answer to that question, a water test or call to your local water authority can help you find it.

Diet is another factor to consider. If your child enjoys soda or other sugary snacks, a little extra fluoride may be necessary to combat the effects sugar can have on young teeth.

If you are still in doubt, be sure to ask your dentist at your next checkup. Your dentist will examine your child’s teeth and take into consideration environmental factors before making an informed decision about whether you should begin using fluoride toothpaste with your toddler.


From Halloween to New Year’s: Best and Worst Seasonal Foods for Your Teeth

By Madeline R. Vann, MPH | Reviewed by Farrokh Sohrabi, MD

Treat Your Teeth Well This Season

Enjoying sweet treats on Halloween or a glass of good cheer on New Year’s Eve is part of the holiday season, but some seasonal fare can take a toll on the health of our teeth and gums.

According to a 2015 report by the National Center of Health Statistics, 27 percent of American adults between the ages of 20 and 64 have untreated tooth decay. Much of this damage is caused by foods that wear away the protective enamel on the surface of our teeth — and you can find many of these foods at seasonal parties and holiday gatherings.

However, there are plenty of delicious options that will allow you to embrace the holiday spirit while keeping your teeth healthy. Here are the top nine foods to either love or limit through the fall and winter holidays.

LOVE: Leafy, Green Vegetables

Raw spinach and kale may not top your list of holiday foods, but these vegetables actually grow best in cool-weather seasons like fall and winter. What’s more, they’re very healthy for your teeth. “Spinach, kale, collard greens — these and other high-fiber vegetables help ‘wash’ our teeth by requiring more chewing, which produces more saliva, a natural lubricant for our teeth,” says Laura Rutledge, MA, RD, a dietitian and assistant professor in the department of nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Rutledge recommends a salad of leafy greens, strawberries, goat cheese, nuts, and a little oil and vinegar.

LIMIT: Lemons, Limes, Oranges, and Grapefruit

Citrus contains vitamin C and gives you a burst of refreshing flavor — and “vitamin C can help your gums heal,” says Leigh Anne Burns, MS, LDN/RD, a dietitian in practice with LSU Health in New Orleans. However, citrus foods are also highly acidic, which means they can cause enamel erosion, making you more susceptible to tooth decay. Adding an occasional squeeze of lemon or lime to your water is acceptable, but Burns recommends primarily enjoying these acidic fruits “at large meals.” That way, the saliva produced for the rest of the meal can help wash away acid and protect your teeth. 

LOVE: Cheese

For good oral health, there’s no need to avoid the cheese plate at your next holiday party. Cheese contains casein, a protein with protective properties that helps fight cavities. It also contains calcium and phosphorus, which promote teeth re-mineralization, a naturally occurring process that helps prevent cavities, Rutledge explains. Calcium also helps promote overall bone health, and can be found in many dairy products, including yogurt and ice cream.

LIMIT: Candy

Candy may be a Halloween staple, but dentists stress that you should limit or avoid it due to its high sugar content. Bacteria in your mouth feed on sugar, producing acid that harms your teeth by wearing away the enamel. What’s more, Christmas favorites like toffee or candy canes are “sticky things that sit on the teeth,” says Matthew Messina, DDS, a dentist in practice in Fairview Park, Ohio, who is also a consumer advisor for the American Dental Association (ADA). If you do indulge in sweets, be sure to follow it up with drinking water or, even better, brushing and flossing

LOVE: Berries (in Moderation)

Cranberries in the winter, huckleberries in the spring, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries through the summer. For every season there is a berry, and they're packed with nutrients that are great for your overall health. “Berries are full of vitamins and minerals, are high in antioxidants, and are naturally sweet, which can help satisfy a sweet craving,” Rutledge says. Just remember: berries can have an acidic quality, so it's best to combine them with yogurt or drink water after eating them to limit potential damage to your teeth.

LIMIT: Dried Fruit

Dried fruits often find their way into holiday gift baskets, seasonal salads, and Thanksgiving stuffing. But don’t be fooled into thinking that eating dried fruit is the same for your teeth as their fresh counterparts. Dried fruits such as raisins, prunes, and apricots stick to your teeth, which causes a breeding ground for bacteria, increasing the chance of enamel erosion, explains Burns. If you do decide to snack on dried fruits, Burns says your best bet might be to mix them with nuts (think: trail mix), which can help scrape dried fruit residue off your teeth. 

LOVE: Nuts

Mixed nuts show up at almost every fall and winter gathering, from sporting events to holiday cocktail parties. “Chewing on a nut gives you satisfaction as you work your teeth, and they are full of nutrients like phosphorus and calcium,” says Shawn Adibi, DDS, MEd, a dentist and associate professor at the University of Texas School of Dentistry in Houston. He adds that many people unnecessarily avoid nuts out of fear that chewing them can cause your teeth to chip or crack, but your teeth “are supposed to be strong enough to eat nuts,” he says. Just be sure to shell nuts before you eat them, as shelling them with your teeth is what can cause damage, like chipping and cracking.

LIMIT: Coffee and Alcohol

It’s hard to limit these beverages around the holidays, but both coffee and alcohol can stain your teeth and dry out your mouth. “Bacteria that like a drier environment are more aggressive,” Messina says. The ADA warns that, over time, regularly drinking alcohol can lead to a much drier mouth, which increases the risk for both cavities and gum disease. Additionally, if you add sugar to your coffee, you may be doing even more damage to the enamel of your teeth. Many alcoholic beverages also contain sugar — and adding an acidic mixer to your drink can add to the harmful effects for your teeth.

LOVE: Crunchy Fruits and Veggies

Apple picking is a popular fall activity — and it’s good for your teeth, too. Apples, along with celery, carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli, are smart choices for your teethbecause they pack a healthy crunch that can scrub your teeth — such as to dislodge some of the sticky sweets you might have been eating during holidays like Halloween, Hanukkah, or Christmas. Like leafy greens, these high-fiber foods also stimulate saliva, which helps clean your mouth. “From a dental perspective, the more crunchy foods in your diet, the better,” Messina says. For the best crunch, eat these foods raw.

Everything in Moderation

In general, you don’t need to deprive yourself of your favorite fall and winter treats to maintain a healthy mouth — just be sensible. A study of 533 adult men, 47 to 90 years old, found that those who followed a healthy diet — including dairy, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein — had significantly fewer cavities than men who weren’t following those diet guidelines. The results were published in the September 2015 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatric Association. “You can eat anything in moderation,” says Dr. Messina. “And make sure you brush twice a day, floss once a day, and see your dentist regularly.” 

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