A new warning about fluoride required on fluoride toothpastes is a good idea, but one portion may unnecessarily frighten parents and children.
The label language, "In case of accidental ingestion, seek professional assistance or contact a poison control center immediately," is required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on all tubes of fluoride toothpaste.
"The language is a little harsh," explains Marvin Berman, D.D.S., a specialist in pediatric dentistry. "A child cannot ingest enough fluoride to cause a serious problem unless he or she compulsively eats toothpaste. Parents should watch their children to make sure this doesn't happen. A trip to a poison control center is not warranted."
In 1991, the American Dental Association began to require that toothpaste manufacturers include the following language on all ADA-Accepted toothpastes: "Do not swallow. Use only a pea-sized amount for children under six. To prevent swallowing, children under six years of age should be supervised in the use of toothpaste." The new FDA labels are consistent with the ADA statements, with the exception of the poison control warning.
"The ADA required its warnings labels to reduce the risk of mild fluorosis, which is a cosmetic defect noticeable as very light spots on permanent teeth and develops only while teeth still are forming," says Dr. Berman. "Fluorosis occurs only when more than the optimal daily amount of fluoride is ingested."
"Children under six years of age generally are not capable of spitting and they frequently swallow the toothpaste placed on the brush. Parents should monitor the tooth brushing habits of their children until they can perform this skill on their own -- about the age of seven or eight years," says Dr. Berman.
The Chicago Dental Society strongly supports the use of fluoride in community water supplies but urges parents to work with their dentists to make sure their children, as well as themselves, get the appropriate levels of fluoride.
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