It can be overwhelming to evaluate all the oral products claiming to be “best for children.” Choosing the right toothbrush and children’s toothpaste is crucial to maintaining excellent oral health.

What is the purpose of brushing primary teeth?

It is often overlooked how important it is to maintain the health of primary (baby) teeth. Besides providing speech production, chewing, and jaw development, primary teeth are also helpful in aligning and spacing permanent adult teeth. As well as preventing bad breath and tooth decay, brushing primary teeth removes plaque bacteria associated with childhood periodontitis.

How do toothpaste brands differ from one another?

Most toothpaste brands contain abrasive ingredients to remove stains, soapy ingredients to remove plaque, fluorides to strengthen tooth enamel, and some type of pleasant-tasting flavor.

A major difference between brands is the thickness of the paste, the amount of fluoride, and the type of flavoring. In spite of its ability to strengthen enamel and repel plaque bacteria, too much fluoride can actually harm young teeth – a condition known as dental fluorosis. A child’s fluoride level should be monitored closely between the ages of one and four years old if they are at risk for this condition.

Many adult and non-ADA approved toothpaste brands contain harsher abrasives that remove enamel and weaken primary teeth. Moreover, some popular toothpaste brands contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which causes painful mouth ulcers in some children.

What is the best toothpaste brand for me?

When selecting a toothpaste brand and implementing an oral care plan, the child’s age is the most important factor to consider.  It is important to begin home oral care before the first tooth emerges.  The gums should be gently rubbed with a cool, clean cloth after feeding to remove food particles and bacteria.

The child will have many teeth before the age of two, so brushing should begin then.  To begin with, use fluoride-free “baby” toothpaste and gently brush the teeth twice a day.  Since flavor is largely unimportant, the child can decide which toothpaste tastes best.

Choose a fluoride-containing toothpaste that is accepted by the American Dental Association (ADA) between the middle and end of the third year. Make sure the child spits out any excess fluoride toothpaste after brushing. Use only a pea- or rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.  Getting rid of the toothpaste takes practice, patience, and motivation – especially if the child finds the flavoring enjoyable.  The child may ingest tiny amounts of toothpaste, but don’t worry; this is perfectly normal and will stop with time.

There is no risk of dental fluorosis for children over the age of 8, but approved toothpaste should always be used by children of all ages.

Your pediatric dentist will be happy to offer recommendations regarding which toothpaste is appropriate for your child.

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