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We recently read about how important it is to start toothbrushing once teeth break, both to establish the habit/routine and to prevent early decay.

But the kid's paste we bought (which is delicious, incidentally) is fluoride free. Is that desirable, since it gets eaten, or does that make it ineffective in its decay-prevention role?

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If the sweetness causes him to eat the toothpaste, try a non-sweetened baby toothpaste. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jun 29 '12 at 9:41
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6 Answers 6

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It seems in your case a pea sized bit of fluoride free toothpaste until two years of age is the most consistent recommendation. Consider unsweetened toothpaste; the trade off being between building the habit of brushing (sweetness as incentive) and developing a habit of spitting out toothpaste (sweetness being a hurdle).

Here are some resources to help you decide now and as he grows:

Exerpt from Dental Care For Your Baby:

When should I start cleaning my baby's teeth?

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Lots of helpful responses here - accepting this one due to great source references. –  Jaydles Jul 5 '12 at 18:40
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Fluoride does help, and the tiny amount they might ingest (unless you are using too much toothpaste) should be harmless. Have you modeled the right way to brush and spit?

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We used toddler toothpaste without flouride (there are plenty of choices) up until I saw effort being made about spitting. I'd brush for them and demonstrate what I wanted them to do, and it took a while. My first daughter seemed to do a good job picking it up around 18 months, while my son took until he was probably 24 months or so. The non-flouride toothpastes are fine, the habit is far more important than what you use. We did use a flouride toothpaste with my first daughter for a little while, but it actually seemed like it was occasionally giving her an upset stomach, so we stopped with it.

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The advice we were given was not to use any toothpaste until the child is able to reliably spit it out (at about 18-24 months)

When brushing without toothpaste, just make sure to get up around the gums as this is where the build-up will be.

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I don't think you should worry too much about ingested toothpaste. In some regions, water is fluoridized, causing no harm to the population, so it is safe to assume the health-risks of fluoride ingestion aren't all that big, as long as it is not excessive.

If you really feel uncomfortable using regular toothpaste, you could also try to find fluoride-reduced toothpaste. Here (the Netherlands) this is usually sold as "toddler toothpaste" or "preschool toothpaste" (translation is a bit inaccurate).

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From the same Wikipedia article you linked to: the only clear adverse effect is dental fluorosis, which can alter the appearance of children's teeth during tooth development; this is mostly mild and is unlikely to represent any real effect on aesthetic appearance or on public health.[10] The critical period of exposure is between ages one and four years, with the risk ending around age eight. So no, this is actually the one time they should be paying attention to flouride levels. –  Brendan Long Jul 7 '12 at 2:06
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There should be no problem in using the fluoride added tooth paste. Don't forget to scrub their tongue as it is a breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria.

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