If you didn't think "too much of a good thing" could exist in an oral hygiene routine, science is saying otherwise—at least in terms of children. According to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which surveyed nearly 5,000 American children's dental hygiene habits, roughly 40 percent of kids ages three to six use too much toothpaste when brushing their teeth. As researchers described, 20.6 percent are actually squeezing out a "half load" while 17.8 percent were using a generous "full load," both of which are considered above the recommendation of a "pea-sized" amount of toothpaste.
If you thought a little extra toothpaste might help kids get their pearly whites extra clean, the study notes that overdoing it—especially with children's developing teeth—can be damaging. Not only can excess fluoride cause noticeable changes in enamel structure and discoloration, but swallowing it can increase the risk of children developing fluorosis or, more seriously, pitting. "Children aged less than three years should use a smear the size of a rice grain, and children aged more than three years should use no more than a pea-sized amount (0.25 grams) until age six years, by which time the swallowing reflex has developed sufficiently to prevent inadvertent ingestion," explained researchers in the report.
And while some kids are using too much toothpaste, others still are using too little. The study found that 12.4 percent of children aren't using nearly enough toothpaste, which can also have a negative impact on their oral health.
To help your children develop the healthiest oral hygiene habits, the CDC recommends beginning to brush when your baby's first tooth comes in, or around six months. And in addition to monitoring your child's use of toothpaste, make sure your child is brushing twice a day (as nearly a third of kids surveyed were found only brushing once!).