You've probably seen it written or been told by your dentist that you shouldn't let little ones swallow toothpaste. While it isn't edible, you might wonder why this is a problem, considering that everyone swallows toothpaste accidentally from time to time. However, it's different when you're a child. Here's why.
Too Much Fluoride
Fluoride is the substance in toothpaste, mouthwashes, and probably even your water supply that's designed to help prevent teeth from getting cavities. Fluoride hardens tooth enamel and makes it stronger, dramatically boosting teeth's resistance to cavities.
The problem is, swallowing toothpaste means that you can be introduced to too much fluoride. When you use toothpaste normally, only a small amount of fluoride is absorbed through the surfaces of the mouth. But when it's swallowed, ever drop of fluoride in the toothpaste is consumed.
Effect on the Body
When you're a grown-up, fluoride doesn't really have a negative impact on you, even if you consume too much of it. That's because your teeth have all developed and come in already. Unfortunately, the same isn't true of children.
If a child consumes too much toothpaste with fluoride in it, it can lead to pitting of the teeth. This is because the excess of fluoride can cause enamel to develop wrong as the teeth are being grown by the body. So if your child hasn't had their adult teeth come in yet, too much fluoride is a bad thing for them.
What to Do
What you should do really depends upon the age of your child and how much you're willing to participate. If your child is really young, you should still be monitoring their toothbrushing efforts. When you do so, make sure to tell them not to swallow their toothpaste as it could make them feel sick. This should be a good discouragement to keep them from doing it.
Alternatively, you can switch back and forth between fluoridated toothpaste and non-fluoridated. If your child swallows a little bit of non-fluoridated toothpaste, it won't have the same impact on their teeth. You can also cut back on fluoridated mouthwash and try drinking bottled water at home.
When you visit your dentist's office, they use fluoride to help protect your child's teeth. That fluoride, plus the fluoride in your home dental products, should be perfectly safe, so long as your child doesn't swallow them. Talk to pediatric dental specialists if you have concerns or questions or if your child has visible pitting in their teeth.