Cochrane Summaries

Trusted evidence. Informed decisions. Better health.

Is the use of fluoride toothpaste during early childhood associated with discolouration/mottling of teeth?

Wong MCM, Glenny A-M, Tsang BWK, Lo ECM, Worthington HV, Marinho VCC
Published Online: 
16 June 2010

There is strong evidence that the use of toothpaste containing fluoride can prevent tooth decay (caries) in both children and adults. However, a possible adverse effect associated with the use of fluoride toothpaste is the mottling of permanent teeth due to the swallowing of excessive fluoride by young children with developing teeth. This dental fluorosis can range from, typically, mild white patches on the teeth to severe mottling of the teeth with brown staining. The aim of this review was to evaluate whether the use of fluoride toothpaste by children is associated with an increased risk of developing dental fluorosis in children. The review included 25 studies of different designs; some providing stronger evidence than others. There is some evidence that brushing a child's teeth with a toothpaste containing fluoride, before the age of 12 months, may be associated with an increased risk of developing fluorosis. There is stronger evidence that higher levels of fluoride (1000 parts per million (ppm) or more) in toothpaste are associated with an increased risk of fluorosis when given to children under 5 to 6 years of age. However, for some children (those considered to be at high risk of tooth decay by their dentist), the benefit to health of preventing decay may outweigh the risk of fluorosis. In such circumstances, careful brushing by parents/adults with toothpastes containing higher levels of fluoride would be beneficial.