At NOVA Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics, parents often ask us how to choose the best toothpaste for their child. Toothpaste is a big business, and there are dozens of options available. With marketing that appeals to kids and parents alike, it can be hard to decide. Not only do you need to scrutinize ingredients, but how do you know when to switch to an adult toothpaste? With a little knowledge before you enter the toothpaste aisle, you can rest-assured that you’re picking the right toothpaste for your child.
Choosing Toothpaste for Kids: What’s in Toothpaste?
Most toothpaste contains mild abrasives to remove stains, fluoride, and antibacterial agents – along with thickening agents and detergents to create foam. Most also include an artificial sweetener to improve taste, like saccharine, and some mix in artificial colors designed to appeal to kids.
Toothpaste for Kids: What Do You Look For?
Children’s toothpaste should meet a few important criteria:
- Fluoride: We recommend fluoride toothpaste for children 3 and over. We believe that fluoride plays an essential role in strengthening tooth enamel. As long as a child can spit out his or her toothpaste, fluoride is the way to go.
- Flavor: Oral hygiene should be comfortable and pleasant for your child. It’s important to choose toothpaste your child likes – or at least tolerates. Manufacturers have developed a wide variety of options from which to choose, like strawberry, gentle mint, or bubble gum. It’s crucial to find a taste your child enjoys to make brushing an enjoyable experience.
- Mild Abrasives: Make sure the abrasives in your child’s toothpaste are intended for children. The harsher abrasives in adult toothpaste that are designed to remove tough stains are too rough for young teeth. Some parents also opt to avoid the ingredient Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, which causes irritation in some kids.
- The ADA Seal: The American Dental Association (ADA) evaluates toothpaste for safety and effectiveness. A toothpaste with the ADA seal has all the right ingredients to protect your child’s teeth from cavities.
Why is the ADA Seal Important?
Toothpaste must be approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before it can be brought to market. Unlike the FDA, which ensures a product’s safety, the ADA conducts laboratory tests to determine whether or not a toothpaste meets certain standards for effectiveness. That means that although toothpaste can be legally sold if it is FDA-approved, the ADA seal guarantees that the toothpaste can protect tooth enamel.
Natural Toothpaste for Children
Many parents look for a natural toothpaste for their children because of concerns about additives, artificial colors, and artificial sweeteners. There are some positive elements to natural toothpaste, like the use of natural abrasives like calcium and silica to clean the teeth, but it definitely has some drawbacks. Not all natural toothpaste is approved by the ADA, and many do not contain fluoride. However, it is possible to find a toothpaste that is both natural and ADA-approved. Tom’s of Maine and Hello are a couple of natural brands that have earned the seal.
Toothpaste and Very Young Children
You can start using toothpaste on a toothbrush as soon as your child’s first teeth appear. Ingesting fluoride can be harmful to young children, so make sure that you initially use a fluoride-free toothpaste. Once your child gets a little older and can spit and rinse effectively, you can switch him or her over to a pea-sized amount of toothpaste with fluoride.
Switching to Adult Toothpaste
When your child hits 9 or 10, he or she has a number of adult teeth and may need a stronger toothpaste. Children at that age are also typically more adept at spitting and rinsing properly. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, it’s acceptable to switch to an adult toothpaste around this age. If you have any questions about making the transition, consult your pediatric dentist.
Talk to Your Pediatric Dentist About Choosing a Toothpaste
Sometimes the options for toothpaste (and even fluoride rinses) can be overwhelming. Your pediatric dentist will be happy to recommend the right toothpaste for your child, keeping his or her unique needs and any special considerations, such as sensitivities or weak enamel, in mind.
At NOVA Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics, we tell our patients to identify ingredients they want, and also ingredients they want to avoid, before going to the store. Parents should read each label carefully to find the toothpaste that will provide the best protection for their child’s teeth.
Your pediatric dentist can help you ensure good oral hygiene for your kids all year long. Purchasing the right toothpaste now may lead to a lifetime of healthy dental habits. Choose wisely!