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    Mayo Clinic Minute: The trouble with toothpaste for kids

Here's a warning that will raise an eyebrow. Too much fluoride toothpaste can damage children's teeth.

A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study revealed 4 in 10 young kids are overusing and ingesting too much fluoride toothpaste, putting them at risk for problems with permanent teeth.

The CDC says parents should teach children, especially 3- to 6-year-olds, how much to use. And here's a hint: It's probably less than you think.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (1:00) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please ‘Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network.’ Read the script.

Max is brushing his teeth because he knows it prevents cavities, and he knows it takes only a little bit of toothpaste.
So he fills about one-third of his small brush with paste.

"The amount of toothpaste is also important because if you use too much, then you risk what is called 'fluorosis,'" says Dr. Valeria Cristiani, a Mayo Clinic pediatrician.

Fluorosis is a condition that leads to discoloration or pits on permanent teeth, and occurs in many cases when a child overuses and swallows fluoride toothpaste.

"So it's very important that parents take charge," Dr. Cristiani adds.

She says the best way to prevent fluorosis is to teach kids that a little paste goes a long way.

"A child that is younger than 3 years of age, they should be using a smear amount of toothpaste with fluoride," Dr. Cristiani explains.

That smear of paste is about the size of a grain of rice. Once your child turns 3, he or she should follow Max's example. Use a pea-sized amount of paste to brush, and swish and spit when finished.