Major Information Needed to Educate Parents of Under-Sevens on Proper Use of Fluoride Toothpaste

10 Sep 2002

Research programme needed to investigate oral health, dietary and dental hygiene practices of under-fives.The Dental Health Foundation (DHF) has today (Tuesday, 10 September) said that the development of an effective and sustained public information campaign, aimed at the parents of young children, about the proper use of fluoride toothpastes for under-sevens is now vitally important. The issue of the appropriate use of fluoride toothpaste is one of the key recommendations in the report of the Forum on Fluoridation.To assist parents in this regard in the short term, Deirdre Sadlier, the DHF’s Executive Director, explained that the Foundation has developed information for parents which is available on In addition, the DHF will be revising its policy document, Oral Health in Ireland, to provide guidance to parents and healthcare professionals on the appropriate use of the full range of oral health care products.Ms Sadlier said that the Foundation’s own research indicated that the public did not appear to be conscious of the difficulties posed by inappropriate tooth brushing, in particular the dangers to children of ingesting excessive levels of fluoride from toothpaste.“The Forum’s report recommends that children under-two should not have their teeth brushed with fluoride toothpaste and that those aged two to seven years should only use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. However, the Forum’s report and our own research indicate that parents of children of under-sevens are largely unaware of the proper use of fluoride toothpaste. The Forum’s report contains details of a recent study in Cork that found that 60% of the one and a half year olds to two and half year olds, who took part in the study, swallowed between 70% and 100% of the toothpaste placed on the toothbrush. In addition, our own research shows that parents of children aged five years, right across the social spectrum, are, for the most part, unaware of the need to only use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.“Given the low levels of awareness highlighted by this research, the development and implementation of a sustained and effective information campaign on the appropriate use of fluoride toothpaste is vitally important. Such a programme must focus, in particular, on the parents of young children.”Deirdre Sadlier pointed out that children under five years of age are not catered for by the state’s dental care services, an area that the Forum has recommended needs to be addressed.“The development of dental care services for under fives is an area which needs to be addressed as a key priority. Children are very vulnerable to tooth decay, notably during the first years following the eruption of teeth, especially due to the high and increasing consumption of drinks with considerable sugar content.“However, in order to develop appropriate dental services for under fives we need to conduct research as a matter of urgency. At present, there is an absence of national data on the oral health, dietary and oral hygiene practices of children under five years, including children with special needs. The collation of such data will be essential to underpin the development of services for young children as recommended in the Forum on Fluoridation’s Report,” Deirdre Sadlier concluded.See the Forum on Flouridation's website at