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Health Tips from Dr. George

You Can Have Too Much of a Good Thing
Dr. George:

My 5 year old has started to swallow the toothpaste after brushing. Is this healthy? How can I get her to stop?

Ronnie P.

Dear Ronnie:

Of course all toothpastes are safe and swallowing them isn’t very dangerous, but you should discourage your child from this habit.

It is important to realize that kids today have many sources of fluoride. Besides toothpaste there is probably fluoride in your drinking water, fruit juices, sodas and even some bottled waters. Overall this is good, because fluoride does prevent cavities, but you can have too much of a good thing if your child is swallowing the toothpaste.

Too much fluoride may cause a condition known as "fluorosis". If this continues, it can cause permanent tooth blemishes, which are usually brown, yellow or chalky white. The tooth enamel can become pitted, rough and hard to clean.

These blemishes can treated by esthetic dentistry, but it is much better and easier to prevent the problem from ever beginning. Swallowing too much toothpaste on a regular basis is an avoidable cause of fluorosis. Only use a pea size amount of toothpaste for kids less than six years old and encourage them to spit out any excess toothpaste.

Be sure to discuss fluoride with your family dentist. They are probably familiar with the amount of fluoride in your drinking water and can suggest steps to make sure your child is getting the proper amount.

Dr. George

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