Are you damaging your children’s smiles with too much toothpaste?

If you use much more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste, you’re likely using too much at a time. While that’s really no problem for adults, it can cause issues for young children. Are you giving your children too much toothpaste? You’re not alone.

Many children use too much

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surprised many parents by reporting that about 38 percent of children ages 3 to 6 exceed the recommended amount of toothpaste.

Why too much toothpaste can be harmful

Children may like the taste of toothpaste and be tempted to swallow it. When they use too much toothpaste, they could potentially swallow enough fluoride to develop fluorosis, which only has an effect on developing teeth. While fluorosis is not a disease, it can alter the appearance of teeth. In its mildest form, it can leave white flecks or streaks on developing teeth. Severe cases can lead to brown spots on teeth. If you notice flecks or streaks on your children’s teeth, see your dentist for possible treatments that may include teeth whitening or other cosmetic treatments for moderate to severe cases.

The right amount to use

Here’s what the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends:

Brush children’s teeth with water as soon as baby teeth grow in. 

Consult with your dentist before using fluoride toothpaste for children younger than 2.

Use only a tiny amount — as big as a grain of rice — for children younger than 3. 

Use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste for children 3 to 6.

Help your children brush

Supervise your children as they brush until they are at least 8 years old. This allows you to check that they are brushing for the full two minutes, using the right amount of toothpaste and not swallowing it. Make sure they spit before rinsing with water, as water makes it easier for them to swallow toothpaste.