Whenever I have a free moment, I like taking a stroll down the toothpaste aisle at CVS (I know, us dentists have strange hobbies) and check out the latest dental products. I’m always shocked at the number and variety of toothpastes available, and it doesn’t surprise me when parents often ask my opinion on the kind of toothpaste which is best for their child.
There are literally dozens of different brands available, from Tom’s of Maine to Crest to Aqua-Fresh to ‘organic’ toothpastes which can be bought online. It’s enough to make a pediatric dentist go crazy. So what’s the best kind of toothpaste for your child?
The short answer is “It depends.”
During the infant years, before any primary (baby) teeth have erupted, no toothpaste at all is required. Instead, parents should be gently wiping their infant’s gums with a soft moistened washcloth. Your infants gums should be wiped a minimum of twice and day, and preferably after feedings and before bedtime. No toothpaste is necessary.
As baby teeth start erupting (between ages 3 months to 24 months), parents should start gently brushing the teeth with an appropriately sized toothbrush. Oftentimes, using a wet toothbrush is sufficient, but use of a fluoride free ‘training’ toothpaste is recommended as it aides in cleaning and gets children used to the sensation of a paste in the mouth. Children should stay on this toothpaste until they are able to spit and rinse out on their own.
Once children are able to spit on their own (between 24-36 months), they can transition to regular children’s toothpaste. Regular children’s toothpaste contains small amounts of fluoride as well as ingredients which aid in the removal of plaque and unsightly stains. Having fluoride in one’s daily toothpaste is essential to overall dental health as it helps with the strengthening and remineralizing of the outer layer of teeth (enamel). There are dozens of children’s toothpastes and come in a variety of different flavors, colors and packaging. Given that there is a huge market and demand for children’s toothpastes, parents can expect to be inundated by a kaleidoscope of different brands. Make choosing a toothpaste along with your child a fun family activity, which will end up motivating your child to brush their own teeth. For all toothpastes, we recommend using toothpastes which have the ‘American Dental Association Seal of Approval’.
As children get older, most will transition away from the ‘Kiddie’ toothpastes and start using adult toothpaste. Again, most commercial brands which contain fluoride are fine, and is matter of personal preference. We sometimes even recommend minty toothpaste for some of our younger patients in order to encourage them to spit out the toothpaste. Be it children’s toothpaste or adult toothpaste, the fluoride content is the same.
If you ‘googled’ toothpaste, you’ll be amazed at the sheer number of toothpastes available which are not made by one of the major manufacturers. There is ‘organic’ toothpaste, fluoride free toothpaste, toothpaste with xylitol, dry mouth toothpaste, herbal fresh toothpaste, smokers toothpaste, SLS-free toothpaste, whitening toothpaste, anti-sensitivity toothpastes, and even bacon-flavored toothpaste! What’s a person to do? Again, it is a matter of personal preference and need. But we would suggest if you would like to use a non-commercial brand toothpaste, that you check with your dentist first who may have some recommendations for what is appropriate for you and your child.
There are a number of times when we may recommend a prescription toothpaste which is not available over the counter. For patients with lots of cavities, a risk of developing cavities, ‘soft’ teeth or even those undergoing orthodontic treatment, we will often times recommend Prevident, Clin-Pro or Gel-Kam. These are all toothpastes with slightly more fluoride in them and are used as a nightly fluoride treatment.