Your child’s oral health is just as important as their physical health. The health of the mouth and body are highly connected. Poor oral health can cause significant problems throughout the body later in life, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and more.
Choosing the best options for your child’s oral care isn’t always as simple as grabbing the first thing you see at the grocery store. It’s essential to choose the right toothpaste for a small child to ensure brushing is helpful and not harmful to their health.
As a pediatric dentist, I’ll talk you through selecting the best baby and toddler toothpastes for oral health and avoiding cavities in your child’s teeth.
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. That means I make a little money when you purchase the products I recommend through my links. (Don’t worry—you’ll pay the same price!) I only recommend products that I truly believe in and would give to my own children.
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Should Babies Use Regular Toothpaste?
Babies should not use regular toothpaste. In fact, you shouldn’t use regular toothpaste, either! Fluoride toothpaste can have many side effects.
Traditional toothpaste can contain nasty ingredients like:
- Artificial colors
- Artificial sweeteners
- Artificial flavors
- Artificial preservatives like parabens
- Detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) that can cause mouth ulcers and damage the lining of the mouth
- Gluten (found in some children’s toothpaste)
I certainly wouldn’t let my little ones brush with that!
I recommend using fluoride-free toothpaste that contains hydroxyapatite, a mineral that makes up the majority of your tooth enamel. Many natural toothpaste brands contain hydroxyapatite, which offers excellent cavity protection.
Hydroxyapatite works like fluoride to protect tooth enamel, but without the nasty side effects. It helps fill in any weak spots in the enamel, keeping your teeth strong and free of dental caries. In fact, it can actually work better than fluoride!
What is the difference between baby and adult toothpaste? The difference between baby and adult toothpaste is the amount of fluoride in the toothpaste. Traditional baby toothpaste generally doesn’t contain fluoride. Kids’ toothpaste usually has less fluoride than adult toothpaste.
Again, I recommend fluoride-free toothpaste for children.
Why can’t toddlers use normal toothpaste? Toddlers can’t use normal toothpaste with fluoride because they are still developing their swallowing reflex. Swallowing too much anticavity fluoride toothpaste can cause stomach upset and even cause fluoride toxicity.
When Should I Start Brushing My Child’s Teeth?
Proper oral hygiene begins before your baby starts teething. Before your child’s teeth come in, you should care for their gums like you would their teeth.
After feeding, you should gently rub your baby’s gums with a moist washcloth or gauze pad to remove any bacteria growing there. You can also buy xylitol wipes for your baby’s gums, which can be great if you’re in a rush.
When should babies use toothpaste? Babies should use toothpaste when their first tooth begins to come in. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Dental Association (ADA) recommend using toothpaste when a baby’s teeth start to erupt through the gums.
Even if your baby’s teeth are barely coming through their gums, it’s imperative to brush them. Breastmilk itself doesn’t cause cavities, but it accelerates tooth decay when it mixes with sugars from food in the mouth. Don’t skip brushing your baby’s teeth!
The best way to brush a baby’s teeth is with a baby toothbrush or a small soft-bristle toothbrush. Start with a squeeze of toothpaste the size of a grain of rice for kids under the age of 3. Brush at least twice a day and always before bed.
Gently brush all sides of each tooth and along the gumline. Once there is a possibility of little teeth touching, it’s time to start flossing as well. You should floss between your baby’s teeth at least once a day. Be sure to floss behind the back molars, too, after they come in.
Toddlers should brush their teeth just like you would brush a baby’s teeth. Use a small amount of toothpaste on a soft toddler toothbrush to clean all surfaces of the teeth. After your child turns 3, they should start using a pea-size amount of toothpaste to brush their teeth.
The best toothpaste for a 2-year-old or 3-year-old is the same toothpaste you would use for your baby. It should be fluoride-free and SLS-free and should have hydroxyapatite to strengthen enamel.
A simple manual toothbrush is wonderful for babies and toddlers. But, as your child gets to preschool age and older, electric toothbrushes can be a great way to get them excited about brushing their teeth, especially if they’re into tech and toys.
Diet: The Key to Healthy Teeth
Choosing the right toothpaste is important, but brushing teeth isn’t the only factor in your little one’s dental health.
Dental health actually starts with what you put in your body. If your child isn’t getting the nutrients they need, that can affect their mouth and teeth. In fact, diet is the foundation for oral care — though it doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
It’s essential to eat an all-around healthy diet packed with whole foods, but here are a few nutrition tips to follow for optimal oral health:
- Eliminate refined carbohydrates: One of the key changes you can make in your child’s diet is eliminating refined sugar and flour. Refined carbohydrates like chips, crackers, and cookies cause cavity-causing bacteria to release a surge of acid that erodes tooth enamel.
- Calcium: The enamel of your teeth is made of calcium phosphate. Your body needs calcium to keep your enamel strong and to help fight tooth decay.
- Vitamin D3: Our bodies need vitamin D3 to absorb calcium properly.
- Vitamin K2: Vitamin K2 works alongside vitamin D3 to bring calcium into your teeth and bones.
- Probiotics: A healthy oral microbiome (good bacteria in your mouth) is beneficial to the health of your mouth. Probiotics will help you support these good microbes.
If you’re breastfeeding or pregnant, be sure you’re taking good care of your own diet to ensure they’re getting essential nutrients as teeth grow. Teeth begin forming long before the teething stage.
Best Baby Toothpaste: 4 Fluoride-Free Options
Choosing the right toothpaste for your toddler or baby can be difficult. With so many options, how do you know you’re picking the right one? Here are my best tips as a pediatric dentist to help you choose the best baby toothpaste.
Avoid all kids fluoride toothpastes. You’ll also want a toothpaste that’s SLS-free. Avoiding fluoride and other harmful ingredients means passing on common store brands like Colgate, Orajel, or Crest Kid’s toothpaste.
Read the label of your baby’s toothpaste carefully. Even brands labeled as natural toothpastes often make kid’s toothpaste that contains fluoride and SLS.
Here are the top baby toothpaste brands I recommend.
1. RiseWell Natural Kids Toothpaste
One of the best toothpaste for babies is RiseWell Natural Kids Toothpaste. It’s made with hydroxyapatite, which helps remineralize the teeth and fight cavities. It’s a better alternative than fluoride and works just as well at preventing cavities.
RiseWell’s kids’ toothpaste also tastes like cake batter, which kids absolutely love. It contains xylitol, which helps fight the bacteria that cause bad breath and cavities. It’s made with natural flavors and tooth-friendly sweeteners. I recommend it because my own kids love it!
3. Jack N’ Jill Natural Kids Toothpaste
Jack N’ Jill Natural Kids Toothpaste is a fluoride-free toothpaste with xylitol for extra cavity protection. It comes in kid-friendly fruity flavors like strawberry, raspberry, and banana. It also comes in milkshake and bubblegum flavors, and there’s a flavor-free version, too.
3. Dr. Brown’s Natural Baby Toothpaste
You can find Dr. Brown’s Natural Baby Toothpaste on its own or as part of a toothbrush set. It comes in two mild fruit flavors: strawberry and apple pear.
4. Hello Toddler Training Toothpaste
Hello’s fluoride-free kids toothpaste is SLS-free. While many of their flavors contain fluoride, the apple does not.
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Should Kids Have Fluoride?
No, kids should not have fluoride unless they have a specific medical reason to need it. (Adults shouldn’t have it, either!) In rare cases, the benefits of fluoride outweigh the risks. Your pediatric dentist can help you make the right decision for your child.
What does fluoride do? Fluoride helps strengthen the enamel on the outside of the teeth and prevents tooth decay. Most municipalities in the United States have fluoridated water because they believe it will help protect their citizens’ teeth.
Unfortunately, too much fluoride can have serious side effects, especially in kids. Research has shown that fluoride exposure can lead to symptoms of inattentive ADHD, tooth discoloration, and altered sleep patterns by the time they’re teens.
To prevent tooth decay, give your children toothpaste with hydroxyapatite. It’s much safer than fluoride toothpaste, and studies have shown that it works just as well.
Other Ideas for Strong Teeth
Though a diet full of nutritious whole foods is the foundation for strong teeth, it’s not the only component. There are also a few dental care items you can give to babies and young children to keep their teeth healthy and strong.
- Infant Probiotic: An infant probiotic will help establish a healthy microbiome in your baby’s mouth. The beneficial microbes reduce your baby’s risk of getting cavities.
- Cod Liver Oil: Cod liver oil is full of nutrients that support oral health, like vitamin D3, vitamin K2, and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Primal Life Organics Tooth Powder: This tooth powder works like toothpaste to help clean and polish teeth. It comes in several kid-friendly flavors like bubblegum and cool orange.
These supplements will help you create a well-rounded foundation for your child’s oral health.
The Bottom Line: Healthy Teeth for Baby
It may seem like your baby is too young to go to the dentist, but that’s simply not true! I recommend bringing in your baby for a dental checkup within their first year.
During that first checkup, your pediatric dentist can make sure the child’s teeth and airways are developing correctly. A pediatric functional dentist can answer any questions you might have about taking care of their teeth, like choosing the right natural toothpaste.
To make shopping for a healthy mouth and baby easier, I’ve put together my favorites in my Amazon shop. There, you can find toothpastes, toothbrushes, and more. Happy brushing!