OVER-the-counter toothpastes contains too little fluoride to protect the teeth of thousands of Scottish children, according to experts.
Youngsters from deprived areas of the country should be brushing their teeth with high-fluoride toothpaste only available on prescription, they argue.
More than a quarter of Scottish children suffer tooth decay, many of them from the poorest communities in the country.
New guidelines from government health experts say the amount of fluoride in toothpaste could make a big difference to tackling the problem.
Recent research showed that 39% of primary one pupils in the most deprived areas suffer from tooth decay compared with 18% in the richest areas.
They say “vulnerable” children aged 10 to 16 should use toothpaste which contains 2,800 parts per million of fluoride (ppmF).
Toothpaste sold in shops typically contains just 700 to 1,500 ppmF.
Products with high levels of fluoride can only be obtained on prescription because too much of the substance can seriously discolour teeth, particularly in children.
The advice has been issued by the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN), part of Healthcare Improvement Scotland, which advises health care professionals on best treatment.
The chairman of the SIGN guideline group, Derek Richards, said: “The recommendations recognise that dental care is not as straightforward as most people would expect and should be managed on an individual basis, by the professionals.”
Mr Richards, a consultant in dental public health, added: “There is also a bigger part for parents to play as they should be aware of useful tips such as checking the level of fluoride in the toothpaste.”
“Parents need to be reminded that twice daily brushing of their children’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste plays a vital job in the fight against decay.”