The best toothpaste for your child is one that’s age-appropriate, gets the job done, and which he or she loves to use. There’s a lot of good children’s toothpaste out there. It’s not hard to find one that fits the bill. Please note that we consider the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Seal of Acceptance a must for any toothpaste you’d consider.
WHAT IS TOOTHPASTE FOR?
We use toothpaste to promote oral health. This means preventing conditions like tooth decay and gum disease. Toothpaste helps accomplish this mission by physically removing plaque and food residue from our teeth as we brush. In addition to cleaning, toothpastes deliver ingredients such as fluoride, which actively work to fortify teeth against decay. Lastly, we get cosmetic benefits from using toothpaste. Healthy teeth are nice-looking teeth, and good oral health prevents bad breath.
Toothpastes commonly have five types of ingredients. All ADA-approved toothpastes, significantly, have fluoride. The other ingredients are abrasives and detergents (cleaners), flavors, and humectants to keep it smooth and creamy.
We should start brushing as soon as there’s a tooth to brush. Before that, we’ll have been wiping baby’s gums clean with a damp cloth after feedings. Where there’s a tooth, there’s the potential for plaque, decay, cavities, and gum disease. Game on!
The current ADA position is that fluoridated children’s toothpaste is appropriate for infants. There’s been some controversy over the risk of fluorosis, a mainly cosmetic concern in which excessive fluoride intake produces spotting. In severe cases, moreover, there’s pitting of the enamel. The ADA’s advice is to put a rice-grain-sized dab of toothpaste on an infant’s toothbrush. Thus, even if the child always swallows all of it, the daily fluoride intake would stay well below the safe limit. We should, of course, train kids not to swallow toothpaste. Subsequently, between the ages of 3-6, a pea-sized lump of toothpaste works. This is an especially key point for parents. Researchers found that parents tend to put about twice the recommended amounts on kids’ brushes! In any case, the risk of fluorosis decreases after age 6 and is over by age 8.
THE BEST CHILDREN’S TOOTHPASTE?
In choosing from ADA-approved kids’ toothpastes it’s hard to go wrong. It’s a good idea, though, to consult with your pediatric dentist. He may recommend particular formulations for your child’s specific needs. With those ducks in a row, it comes down to a choice the child will be happy with. Children being children, it’s as much about the container as it is about the taste. Fun graphics and yummy flavors go a long way toward getting a child to look forward to brushing. Best plan? Let your child pick it out.
Finally, there’s the matter of the toothbrush. All our good work selecting a toothpaste can go down the drain if we saddle a child with a brush that’s too big. There’s nothing fun about feeling like somebody shoved a hockey stick in your mouth! As always, your pediatric dentist is happy to provide guidance.