NEW YORK (Reuters) – Too many children are using too much toothpaste, increasing the risk of streaked or stained teeth as they age, according to a government study released on Thursday.
About 40 percent of children ages 3 to 6 used a full or half full brush of toothpaste, although experts recommend no more than a pea-sized amount, according to the study.
Results from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were based on a survey of parents of more than 5,000 children ages 3 to 15 years.
Health officials recommend that all people drink fluoridated water, and that all people over 2 years of age brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste.
But the amount is important. Children under 3 years should only use a toothpaste the size of a grain of rice. Children 3 to 6 should keep it in an amount the size of a pea.
"Fluoride is a wonderful benefit, but it needs to be used with care," said Dr. Mary Hayes, a pediatric dentist in Chicago.
Young children may press for independence when brushing their teeth, but children's toothpaste tastes sweet.
"You do not want them to eat like food," Hayes said. "We want parents to take care of the toothbrush and toothpaste."
Fluorine is a mineral found in water and soil. More than 70 years ago, scientists found that people whose drinking water naturally had more fluoride also had fewer cavities. This has led to efforts to add fluoride to tap water, toothpaste, mouthwash and other products. Experts say fluoride has helped reduce tooth decay rates in American teenagers and adults.
But excess fluoride when teeth are forming can lead to dental streaks or blemishes – known as dental fluorosis. In extreme cases, the teeth can be worn by the mineral, although many cases are so mild that only the dentists notice it.
Previous studies have suggested that fluorosis has been increasing for at least three decades and can affect up to 2 in 5 teens.
The new study did not follow the children over time or tried to determine how many scratched or stained teeth developed as a result of using too much toothpaste.
The authors recognized other limitations. Parents may have forgotten how much children used toothpaste when they were younger. In addition, the research did not specifically ask about what types of toothpaste were used; not all types of toothpaste for children have fluoride in them.
The study found that about 60% of children brush their teeth twice a day. He also found that about 20 percent of white and black children and 30 percent of Hispanic children did not start brushing until they were three years old.
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