What’s the Best Toothpaste for My Child?

Evaluating the many brands of oral products claiming to be “best for children” can be an overwhelming task.  Selecting an appropriately sized toothbrush and a nourishing, cleansing brand of children’s toothpaste is of paramount importance for maintaining excellent oral health.

Why brush primary teeth?

The significance of preserving the well-being of primary (baby) teeth is frequently overlooked. These teeth play a crucial role in speech development, chewing, jaw growth, and ensuring the correct alignment and spacing of permanent adult teeth. Regularly brushing primary teeth not only prevents bad breath and tooth decay but also eliminates the plaque bacteria responsible for childhood periodontal disease.

What differences are there among toothpaste brands?

Though all toothpastes are not created equal, most brands generally contain abrasive ingredients to remove stains, soapy ingredients to eliminate plaque, fluorides to strengthen tooth enamel, and some type of pleasant-tasting flavoring.

The major differences between brands are the thickness of the paste, the level of fluoride content, and the type of flavoring.  Although fluoride strengthens enamel and repels plaque bacteria, too much of it can actually harm young teeth – a condition known as dental fluorosis.  Children between the ages of one and four years old are most at risk for this condition, so fluoride levels should be carefully monitored during this time.

Be aware that adult and non-ADA approved brands of toothpaste often contain harsher abrasives, which remove tooth enamel and weaken primary teeth.  In addition, some popular toothpaste brands contain sodium lauryl sulfate (shown as “SLS” on the package), which cause painful mouth ulcers in some children.

So which toothpaste brand should I choose?

Before devising an oral care plan and selecting a toothpaste brand, it is crucial to consider the child's age. Establishing a home oral care routine should commence even before the first tooth emerges. After feeding, gently rubbing the gums with a cool, clean cloth helps eliminate food particles and bacteria.

Once the child reaches the age of two and has multiple teeth, it is time to begin brushing. Initially, opt for fluoride-free "baby" toothpaste and gently brush the teeth twice a day. Flavoring becomes less significant, allowing the child to have a say in choosing a toothpaste that tastes pleasant to them.

Between the middle and the end of the third year, select a toothpaste brand approved by the American Dental Association (ADA) that contains fluoride. The ADA logo is clearly displayed on toothpaste packaging, ensuring its acceptance. Use only a small pea-sized or rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste, and encourage the child to spit out the excess after brushing. Teaching the child to rinse and eliminate the toothpaste takes practice, patience, and motivation, particularly if the flavor is appealing to them. It is normal if the child ingests minimal amounts of toothpaste, and with time and encouragement, this will cease.

While dental fluorosis is not a concern for children over the age of eight, it is always recommended to choose an ADA-approved toothpaste for children of any age.

If you have questions or concerns about choosing an appropriate brand of toothpaste for your child, your pediatric dentist will be happy to make recommendations.

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