Flossing once daily and brushing twice a day are super important habits for warding off childhood tooth decay and gum disease. Most parents have a pretty good idea about general oral hygiene. Yet, where we get a lot of questions at our Naperville kids’ dentistry practice is surrounding toothpaste. Is fluoride safe for babies? When is it okay to start using toothpaste for kids? Well, we’ve got all of your answers in our guide to choosing the best toothpaste for kids from infancy through the school-aged years.
When Should Babies Start Using Toothpaste?
First things first, you can start cleaning an infant’s mouth from birth by wiping down their gums with a soft cloth or piece of moistened gauze. You should start brushing a baby’s teeth as soon as their first tooth emerges. Use a small, soft, infant-sized toothbrush and, yes, a tiny smear of toothpaste about the size of a grain of rice. Parents are often concerned about using fluoride toothpaste for babies but it’s recommended as soon as they get that first tooth.
Fluoride, in the correct dose, is absolutely safe for babies. It’s a natural mineral that strengthens the teeth, protects the enamel from the cavity-causing acids found in plaque and also helps kills some of the bad bacteria in the mouth. While there is fluoride-free toothpaste for babies that’s marketed towards really little ones, the American Dental Association recommends using a regular fluoride toothpaste for kids in a very small amount. They note there is a benefit to introducing fluoride early because about 25% of children have had a cavity before starting kindergarten. Given that tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, preventative measures like using fluoride toothpaste are essential.
How Much Toothpaste Should Kids Use?
You may have seen in the news that the CDC recently reported that 40% of kids are using too much toothpaste. While fluoride is essential for preventing tooth decay, excessive amounts when the teeth are still developing can lead to fluorosis. Mild fluorosis causes white spots on the teeth when they erupt, while more severe fluorosis can cause pitting and dark brown discoloration. Since babies and little kids don’t know how to spit out the toothpaste, it stays in their mouths, which can exacerbate the problem.
So, what’s a parent to do? Using the correct amount of toothpaste will ensure your little one’s smile is protected from tooth decay and they don’t receive too much fluoride. Here are the guidelines when it comes to using fluoride toothpaste for kids:
- Kids birth to age three – Use a tiny smear (about the size of a grain or rice)
- Kids ages three and up – Use a pea-sized amount
Babies and kids should have their teeth brushed twice a day with toothpaste. Parents will want to brush babies and young toddlers’ teeth for them and supervise older toddlers, preschoolers and school-aged kids until they develop good technique and you’re sure they’re spitting the toothpaste out. In fact, as soon as they’re able, have kids spit excess toothpaste in the sink when they’re done brushing. When kids hit their teenage years, they still don’t need a ton of fluoride toothpaste. A thin ribbon across the head of the toothbrush will suffice. If you’re concerned your kiddo is getting too much or too little fluoride, talk to your pediatric dentist. We can evaluate their intake and give you guidance.
What’s the Best Toothpaste for Kids?
The best kids’ toothpaste is one that has the ADA Seal of Acceptance on the package. This means that clinical or laboratory tests were performed on the product and the toothpaste was found to be safe and effective. Beyond that, look to ensure it contains fluoride and keep in mind that kid-friendly flavors don’t hurt either. When kids like how their toothpaste tastes, they’re more likely to want to brush their teeth. These are some of the best toothpastes for kids that we recommend at our office (all are ADA approved):
- Tom’s of Maine Natural Anti-Cavity Kid’s Toothpaste – This toothpaste contains fluoride but doesn’t have any artificial flavors, sweeteners or preservatives. The Silly Strawberry flavor is a true crowd pleaser among the tiny crowd!
- Aquafresh® Bubble Mint Toothpaste – You get cavity protection and a great taste with this toothpaste. One of the reasons we consider it among the best toothpaste for kids is it’s low abrasion so even if kids who are learning to brush use too much pressure, their teeth will be safe.
- Colgate® Kids’ Mild Bubble Fruit Flavor – This Colgate toothpaste for toddlers, babies and kids is gentle, sugar free, fights cavities and has a mild flavor. You can get it with a variety of characters on the packaging like Minions or Trolls. Kids ages six and up might prefer the Colgate Kids 2in1 Toothpaste, which combines a toothpaste and mouthwash in one formula.
- Crest® Kids’ Cavity Protection Toothpaste – These mild, enamel-safe toothpastes for children are tasty and protect little teeth from cavities. You can find versions featuring Frozen, Toy Story, Mickey Mouse and more.
Aside from flossing, brushing and using the correct amount of fluoride toothpaste for kids, another important way to keep little smiles healthy is regular visits to the dentist! Schedule an appointment with one of our fun, friendly dentists in Naperville at Innovative Pediatric Dentistry today!