Toothpaste is an important component of your child’s daily dental hygiene routine. Like any concerned parent, you probably want to make sure that you are buying the best toothpaste for your child’s oral health. However, with so many different types of toothpaste available, choosing the right toothpaste can be quite the challenge. Therefore, learning a bit more about toothpaste can clear up some of the confusion you feel when trying to decide which toothpaste is right for your child.
What is toothpaste made of?
Toothpaste contains a number of different ingredients that all have a specific purpose. Knowing what these ingredients are and how they work can allow you to identify specific ingredients that can benefit your child’s oral health. Most toothpastes contain some or all of the following:
- Detergents such as sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium N-lauroyl sarcosinate that are responsible for making toothpaste “foam” so that it can spread over the entire surface of the teeth.
- Mild abrasives such as calcium carbonate, hydrated aluminum oxides, dehydrated silica gels, magnesium carbonate, phosphate salts, and silicates. These are used to remove stains and debris from the surface of the teeth.
- Humectants such as glycerol, propylene glycol, and sorbitol to prevent the toothpaste from drying out and to keep the mouth moist. Additionally, water makes up 20-42% of toothpaste to add moisture.
- Flavoring agents such as saccharin to give toothpaste a pleasant taste.
- Thickening agents such as mineral colloids, natural gums, seaweed colloids, or synthetic cellulose to stabilize the formula.
- Fluoride, which is used to prevent tooth decay by strengthening the tooth enamel.
- Pyrophosphates and zinc citrate, which are used to prevent the accumulation of tartar.
- Whiteners, such as hydrogen or carbamide peroxide, which are used to remove surface stains.
- Desensitizers, such as potassium nitrate or strontium chloride, to prevent tooth sensitivity.
What ingredients should I look for in a child’s toothpaste?
Generally speaking, the most important ingredient you should look for is fluoride. This is because fluoride has been proven to be extremely effective in preventing tooth decay by strengthening the tooth enamel. Additionally, ingredients such as pyrophosphates and zinc citrate, which protect against tartar accumulation are also ideal. However, you should avoid toothpastes that contain whiteners or excess abrasive ingredients, since these can damage tooth enamel. Finally, you will also want to pick a flavor of toothpaste that your child likes. Since many children find minty toothpaste to be “spicy”, picking a bubblegum or fruit-flavored toothpaste may be better.
An easy way to pick out a toothpaste for your child is to look for the American Dental Association Seal of Approval. Toothpastes that are marked with this seal have undergone strenuous testing by the ADA to ensure that they are both safe and effective for their intended use.
When should my child use toothpaste?
The American Dental Association recommends to start using toothpaste on your child’s teeth as soon as they erupt. However, the amount of toothpaste that you should use is based on the age of your child. For children under the age of 3, it is recommended to only use a smear of fluoride toothpaste that is no larger than a grain of rice. For children over the age of 3, this amount can be increased to the size of a pea. All children should brush their teeth twice a day, regardless of their age. Until your child is old enough to brush effectively on their own, you should supervise your child to make sure they do not swallow the toothpaste as it can give them a stomachache.