Risks for children of fluoride-free toothpaste
AS regular readers will now be aware, dental decay is the most common chronic disease of childhood and dental extractions are the most common reason for general anaesthetic in the UK and Ireland. Untreated decay is associated with pain, infection, reduced quality of life, poor growth and development and is often associated with the prescription of multiple antibiotics for young children on long waiting lists for dental extractions in the public system. Dental decay is also preventable.
Clearly, dental decay is better avoided than treated and it is to this end that fluoride toothpastes were introduced to the European market in the 1970s and are available over-the-counter in a range of concentrations. The evidence for the effectiveness of fluoride toothpastes is very strong and is of very high quality. In dental and medical research a Cochrane review is a systematic way of looking at scientific research which only includes studies of exceptionally high quality. Cochrane reviews therefore are considered to be a very worthy source of evidence.
The Cochrane review on the efficacy of fluoride toothpastes showed that when used twice daily, adult-strength toothpastes reduce the risk of decay by almost 30 per cent. This is obviously a very significant reduction. A word of caution is that the evidence for low strength fluoride toothpastes aimed at children is not as robust. For this reason parents should always be guided by a dental professional in selecting hygiene products for small children as the choice is best made based on an assessment of the child’s risk of dental decay.
Sometimes parents come to see me and are baffled because their child has developed tooth decay. It is possible to develop dental decay even when children consume a seemingly healthy diet. Often the answer can lie in the fact that the child has not been using a fluoride toothpaste.
There is a growing range of fluoride free toothpastes available on the market these days. Parents should think carefully before choosing fluoride-free toothpaste and if they do it is wise to discuss the use of fluoride-free alternatives for decay protection with their dentist.
Dr Daly is a Paediatric Dentist and provides both routine and specialist care for children from 0-16 years. For more information about paediatric dentistry visit www.kerrypaediatricdentalpractice.com or phone 066 7117071.
It is possible to develop dental decay even when children consume a seemingly healthy diet.