Oral Care Medicine Safety
Good oral care is part of good overall healthcare. Brushing, flossing, and regular dental cleanings should be a key part of everyone’s healthcare regimen. Poor oral or dental hygiene can cause cavities (also known as caries) and gingivitis, and has been linked with other health conditions.
Here is general information to help keep you smiling and healthy:
- Brush and floss twice a day, especially after eating.
- Brush with a toothpaste that contains fluoride. And use a soft toothbrush.
- Floss with dental floss.
- Have your teeth cleaned by your dental hygienist twice a year or as recommended by your dentist to prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
- Avoid eating foods that stick between your teeth or foods that are high in refined sugar or acid.
Fluoride is a natural element that is extremely effective in preventing tooth decay and cavities. It can be found in toothpastes, mouthwashes, and is even added to the water supply in some communities. As important as fluoride is, there are a few things parents must know as fluoride relates to children especially. The American Dental Association recommends that:
- Fluoride supplements should not be given to children six-months-old and younger.
- Fluoride toothpaste should not be used in children under age two.
- Do not use too much fluoride; use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste for kids. (See important tips below.) Too much fluoride causes grey spots to appear on teeth and does not give additional strength to teeth. If you have any questions about the right amount, talk to your doctor.
- You should brush your very young children’s teeth until they are at least six-years-old.
- Once your young children begin brushing their own teeth themselves, you should still monitor them until they are nine-years-old or so to ensure they do not swallow the toothpaste and that they are learning good brushing and flossing habits.
In addition to general information about fluoride and children, here are some more tips for parents:
- Start oral hygiene early in your child’s life.
- Use a wet gauze pad to wipe baby’s gums after each feeding to remove plaque and milk residue. Remember that “baby bottle cavities” can result when an infant is allowed to nurse continuously from a bottle of juice, milk, or sugar water when put to bed.
- Soft bristled toothbrushes are recommended for children’s toothbrushes. A child’s toothbrush is smaller than an adult’s and is available in a baby size (for children up to age six or seven) and a junior size (age seven to teen).
- Children can usually remove plaque more easily with a brush having short and narrow bristles.
- Mouthrinses and mouthwashes can cause serious illness and injury to children if they’re swallowed. These products should be kept out of the reach and sight of children.
For more tips about oral care medicine safety specifically if you're a parent, pregnant or nursing, or caring for a senior, there is more information in each section of OTCsafety.org.
For information on the listing of fluoride under Proposition 65 in California, see our frequently asked questions guide.
- Polyethylene is easily identifiable within the “inactive ingredient” list on the package carton.
- Many toothpaste manufacturers produce toothpaste that contain polyethylene, and several new products have been introduced in the past five years. In fact, more than 200 new polyethylene-containing toothpastes have been introduced in 43 countries by more than 15 manufactures worldwide.
- Polyethylene is not absorbed by the body, and the body doesn’t create enzymes to break them down. The specks will pass through the digestive tract unchanged, similar to dietary fibers. Toothpaste should be used as directed, but even with some accidental ingestion, the PE speck ingredients pose no safety risk. A patient’s normal oral care routine of brushing, flossing, and rinsing with water or mouth rinse should help clear the mouth of inert PE specks.
- There is no evidence from clinical studies or from post-marketing adverse event reporting to indicate that these particles persist underneath the gum line or cause harm.
Caring for Teething Babies
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a communication regarding a rare adverse effect in professional and OTC products containing benzocaine. OTC gel and liquid medications containing benzocaine provide relief for children and adults who experience mouth pain. While FDA’s announcement notes very rare but serious instances of methemoglobinemia, a condition in which the amount of oxygen carried through the blood stream is reduced, associated with these benzocaine medications, these products are safe when used as directed for the large majority of consumers. Due to these rare instances, FDA has recommended that the products not be used in children under two years of age except under the advice of a healthcare professional.