You know the warning on the toothpaste package that says only a "pea-sized" amount of toothpaste is appropriate for children under six? And that children under two should avoid toothpaste altogether? And that you should squeeze the tube from the bottom up to get every little bit of paste out?
All of those things are useful to know, but only the first two might prevent a serious oral health problem. Dental (sometimes called enamel) fluorosis occurs in the early years of tooth development. That means only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste from the ages of two to six. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry also recommends that you ask your dentist (or water treatment plant) about the amount of fluoride in your water. Based on that, you can decide if fluoride supplements are necessary.
Most important, the AAPD recommends monitoring your child's use of fluoride toothpaste. Although most of us don't jones for the taste of toothpaste, children might take a liking to the minty freshness, or simply swallow too much when brushing. Make sure they're brushing thoroughly, but also spitting the toothpaste out.
One thing the AAPD doesn't recommend is avoiding fluoride completely. As we've gone over, the right amount of fluoride is going to prevent cavities. Just be aware that at an early age, the line between too much and enough is a little finer. Next, we're going to see who is on what side in the fluoride debate.