Choosing The Best Toothpaste For Your Child

You may not be able to prevent all cavities, but you can try to help your child have the best possible oral health by using the right dental care products. While it can be relatively straightforward to decide on a toothbrush for your child, deciding on the best toothpaste can be more challenging.

Toothpaste for Babies

For infants, you don't need to use a toothpaste until they actually have teeth, but you do need to use a soft cloth or infant brush to clean their teeth. 

Older babies who sprout a tooth or two can use a non-fluoride toothpaste designed especially for kids under age 2. This is often called training toothpaste, and usually comes in packages that feature popular kids' characters. It's great to establish an oral health regimen of brushing even when your child is very young so that you can start good habits.

Toothpaste for Toddlers

In the past, many dentists recommended a training toothpaste for children who were too young to ensure they didn't swallow. The idea was that the fluoride in a toothpaste designed for older kids might get ingested. This can cause fluorosis, which is a discoloration of the teeth. 

But in 2014, the American Dental Association started to recommend that parents use a fluoride-based paste even if their kids might swallow some. 

The change comes in the amount of paste recommended for use. Experts advise using the amount of toothpaste equivalent to a grain of rice -- sometimes called a smear. In other words, use the smallest amount possible to get some on the teeth and don't overdo it, and you should be fine even if your child swallows a bit. 

Most toothpaste for younger children comes in fruit flavors rather than the mint that adults are used to. This is because mint flavors can be too intense for younger children, and the fruit makes it more likely that they will enjoy brushing.

Toothpaste for Preschoolers and Elementary School Children

Children's toothpaste for older children usually does contain fluoride. Older kids can more reliably spit out the unused paste, and so you can use a little bit more -- about the size of a pea. No matter how much you use, always encourage your child to spit rather than swallow.

At this age, you should still be helping your child to put on the right amount of toothpaste and you should supervise or do brushing for them.

Many children's toothpastes actually contain the same amount of fluoride as an adult paste. Look for one that contains at least 1000 parts per million, and you can use it as long as your child wishes.

Adult Toothpaste

Your child can use an adult toothpaste as soon as they can reliably spit out excess paste. The main difference between most fluoridated children's paste and adult's paste is simply the flavors. If your kid likes the minty flavors most often found in adult toothpaste, you can switch at any time.

Regardless of which type of toothpaste your child uses, make sure they don't rinse after using it. The fluoride must stay on the teeth in order to be at maximum effectiveness. Talk to your dentist, one like Denise McGrade DDS, if you have questions about the best toothpaste for your child to use.