The Canadian Dental Association recommends that a child under 3 should be using only a rice grain sized amount of toothpaste and children 3 to 6 a pea sized amount. If your child under 3 has low risk for cavities (based on diet, history of cavities, amount of plaque, and even mom’s history of cavities) then it is sometimes recommended to use a toothbrush with just water. This is because we don’t want children to swallow too much toothpaste with fluoride as it can affect the developing adult teeth and potentially make your child sick as it actually contains properties that induce vomiting. If too much fluoride is ingested while permanent teeth are developing, they can appear chalky or mottled when they do finally erupt into the mouth. Fluoridated water supply is balanced so that the perfect amount of fluoride is ingested to help protect teeth from cavities without causing undue harm to the adult teeth. The concern is only when large amounts are swallowed beyond the normal amount in our water supply.
Parents should be assisting children under 6 years old a in brushing to make sure they are doing it correctly and to help make sure not much toothpaste is swallowed. Children under 3 years old should have their teeth and gums brushed by their parents, either with a soft brush or a moistened washcloth wrapped around a parent’s finger. Flossing should be introduced as soon as a child’s teeth are touching, when those earlier spaces between the teeth have closed up. Flossing is difficult for even the best of us at times, so parents should assist until children are ready to take over themselves, usually at around age 10.