Children Swallowing Toothpaste? Should You Be Concerned? - Dental Guide Australia

Children Swallowing Toothpaste? Should You Be Concerned?

In this article, we’ll be investigating and offering a balanced answer to what would seem at first glance to be an easily answered question:

Should you be concerned about your children swallowing toothpaste?

“Of course, who wouldn’t be concerned about their child swallowing toothpaste!”

It’s a foreign substance. Right?

But, how much concern? Why should you be concerned? What do you do if yourchild does swallow toothpaste? We’ll try and answer those questions and give you some additional information so that you can come to your own opinion about fluoride toothpaste. You canthen takesome informed steps regarding your own child.


The Main Issue Surrounding Children Swallowing Toothpaste

You will find this or similar warnings (starting in 1997) on all fluoride toothpastes.

WARNING: Keep out of the reach of children under 6 years of age. If you accidentally swallow more than used for bushing, seek professional assistance or contact a Poison Control Centre immediately. As with other toothpastes, if irritation occurs discontinue use.

Fluoride, the Main Issue:Most government health agencies,includingthose in Australia and the USA, believe that providing proper amounts of fluoridein the water supply is a beneficial public health service for preventing dental decay. Australia also has been in the forefront of recommending low fluoride toothpaste for children.

Dental Guide Australia does not take a position on fluoridation. We simply provide instructional information on dental topics including this particular issue of children and toothpaste swallowing.

For those interested in the debate surrounding the pros and cons of fluoride in general, we suggest visiting this website for more information.

Fluoride comes in three forms in toothpaste:

  • Sodium Fluoride (NaF).
  • Stannous Fluoride (SnF2).
  • Sodium monofluorophosphate (Na2PO3F) (Easy for you to say…).

Toothpastes also contain mild abrasives, humectants, flavoring agents, thickening agents, and foaming agents.

The Problem

  1. The clear majority of worldwide research concludes that fluoride does indeed prevent cavities in children and adults.
  2. The clear majority of worldwide research also shows that too much fluoride intake by children ages eight and below causes fluorosis.
  3. The clear majority of worldwide research shows that swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste can cause symptoms of poisoning.

How do we ensure that our children are protected from unnecessary and sometimes debilitating tooth decay and at the same time are protected from dental fluorosis, not to mention becoming ill from ingesting too much toothpaste?

The Australian government has researched this problem along with other worldwide scientific and public health organizations, including the American Dental Association, tocome up with a solution.


Managing the Problem

  • Ages birth through eight years is the time of concern for excess fluoride exposure risks. The permanent teeth are developing under the “baby” teeth during this time.
  • Australian Drinking Water Guidelines developed through the National Health and Medical Research Council have established 1.5mg/liter as the upper limit of water fluoridation to protect against fluorosis.
  • NSW health recommends low fluoride toothpastes for children until age six where indicated.
  • Do not use toothpaste until 18 months of age.
  • From 18 months to five years use low fluoride toothpaste with 0.4–0.55 mgfluoride per gram of toothpaste (mg/g).
  • After age six full strength fluoride toothpaste 1mg/g may be used
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a smear of toothpaste from the first appearance of a baby tooth until three years old and a pea sized amount thereafter.Flossing is also recommended.

Other Measures You Can Take at Home to Protect Your Child

  1. If possible, avoid buying flavoured, colourfully decorated tubes of children’s fluoride toothpaste. This helps to discourage a child’s desire to swallow toothpaste during brushing or seeking to ingest it like candy.
  2. Keep toothpaste out of reach of children or in a locked drawer.
  3. When they canunderstand, teach your child to spit out excess toothpaste.
  4. When your child can understand, explain to them the dangers of ingesting toothpaste.
  5. Post your poison control and emergency room numbers near your phone.

In 2014, the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) reported 18,948 exposures involving toothpaste with fluoride, 16,606 of them in children under the age of six years. Only 306 cases were treated in emergency rooms. Moderate effects were seen in 26 cases, and major effects were seen in one case. No deaths were reported.

The most common symptoms caused by children swallowing toothpaste include nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.Call your emergency number 000 if you notice these symptoms.

Be prepared to give the child’s age and weight, and time and amount of toothpaste swallowed if possible.

A more thorough article on toothpaste poisoning may be found at this MedlinePlus website. This is a USA website, so substitute Australian State and Territory emergency and poison control numbers.

At the Dental Guide Australia, we careabout your dental needs and concerns. Check out our other helpful and informative topics and articles!

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