While your child may feel like a “mini-me” in many ways – they are not tiny adults.
As children, their bodies respond, require, and process things differently than adults.
Toothpaste is no exception. That’s why you need to know exactly when it is possible for your child to start using regular toothpaste.
Children’s toothpaste isn’t just full of fun characters and crazy colors, it’s much more intentional than that. There are several key differences between adults’ and children’s toothpaste.
Consider Fluoride Content
This is the number one difference in children’s toothpaste.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that helps strengthen our enamel and fight tooth decay. Fluoride is so important it’s also added to our drinking water.
However, children can get too much fluoride, which is why children’s toothpaste does not contain fluoride.
Too much fluoride causes dental fluorosis, which leads to white spots or streaks on the teeth or even fluoride poisoning in very rare cases.
A toddler toothpaste, for one-to-three-year-olds, usually doesn’t contain fluoride at all.
Toothpaste for older kids is formulated with lower fluoride content. As they grow and learn how to brush and spit properly, fluoride content can increase.
For this reason, adults should also not be using children’s toothpaste. It doesn’t have enough fluoride content for adequate protection or cleaning power that adult teeth require.
Be Sure it is Safe to Swallow
It takes several years for children to learn how to brush without swallowing and spit properly. Children’s toothpaste is perfectly safe to be swallowed because of the low or zero fluoride content. This allows children to get used to brushing without worrying about accidentally swallowing too much toothpaste.
This is why the quantity of fluoride toothpaste used is significant. Until children are three years old, use a dab the size of a grain of rice. The amount of toothpaste for three-year-olds to six-year-olds should be about the size of a pea.
Once your child can spit their toothpaste out properly, a regular ribbon the length of the toothbrush is advised, though parents should still be present while children brush to ensure that they’re not swallowing their toothpaste. If your child is not yet adept at spitting the toothpaste out, ask your dentist what type of toothpaste is best.
Adult toothpaste is a bit grainy and intentionally abrasive in order to remove stains from the teeth.
For children, this level of abrasion can actually be harmful and may cause more problems to sensitive and growing teeth.
This is especially true for certain dental trends like charcoal toothpaste or whitening additives that are too strong for children’s teeth.
Range of Flavors
Children often describe adult toothpaste as “spicy” because the strong mint flavor and tingling sensation are not appealing to them.
Because we still want them to learn how to care for their teeth, children’s toothpaste will come in sweeter flavors like fruit, bubble gum, or cinnamon.
While it may seem silly to swap the toothpaste for one that simply looks or tastes better, it’s worth it if it means your child will be more willing to brush their teeth.
When can kids use adult toothpaste?
Kids can begin to use adult toothpaste when they’ve learned to brush their teeth like an adult (for the most part).
Once they can spit properly, brush without swallowing, and they can tolerate a stronger mint flavor, they are ready for adult toothpaste.
For most children, this is somewhere between their 3rd and 8th birthday. If your child isn’t able to spit well yet, or swallows their toothpaste, practice spitting, and continue to work on proper brushing techniques with a children’s toothpaste.
If you are concerned about their lack of fluoride as they get older, you can always talk to your dentist during their teeth cleaning to get additional help and decide when to make the switch.
How much toothpaste should I use for my child?
The amount of toothpaste is essential, you don’t want to give them too much because it will increase the risk of swallowing. You can increase the amount of toothpaste as your child grows. Use the following as a recommendation based on age, understanding that each child is different:
Under age 2: Aim for about the size of a grain of rice with no-fluoride toothpaste.
Ages 2-6: A pea-sized amount of children’s toothpaste with fluoride.
Ages 6-8: A full ribbon size of children’s toothpaste with fluoride.
Ages 8+: A full ribbon size of adult toothpaste.
Create good oral hygiene with your child.
When wondering when your child can start using regular toothpaste, first establish whether you have created good brushing habits for them. Good brushing habits start with using the best toothpaste for your child’s growing teeth.
The right toothpaste is one they will tolerate using and be willing to happily brush their teeth twice a day.
If they will only use the toothpaste with baby Yoda, it’s worth the extra $2 as an investment in their dental health.
For more recommendations on children’s toothpaste, or for a free sample – give us a call today!
Since 1986, Dr. William E. Kemper, DMD has been providing quality pediatric dental care in Louisville, KY and the surrounding areas. Dr. Kemper and his staff specialize in pediatric oral examinations, restorative dental treatments, and sedation dentistry, as well as emergency dental care. Our office also caters to children with mental or physical disabilities. Help your child develop healthy oral care habits by scheduling a dental appointment today!