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Dr. Hines’ Advice On When To Start Using Toothpaste

BETWEEN DIAPER CHANGES, BATH TIME, AND MEDICAL CHECKUPS, taking care of the small members of the family becomes a full-time job. In the midst of everything we do to keep our children healthy, what are the best ways to go about caring for teeth (and baby gums!) during those early years?

Birth To 18 Months: No Toothpaste Required!

At Hines Little Smiles we believe, like most dentists, that oral care is important to everyone—no matter what their age. You should begin cleaning your child’s teeth as soon as the teeth begin to come in. For babies younger than 18 months, the best way to clean your child’s teeth (or gums) is to wet cloth or gauze with water. Gently rub your child’s teeth and gums with the cloth over your fingertip. Along with nursing and/or drinking water, this is all the oral hygiene that your child needs at the infant stage. You can start to use a small, soft toothbrush to brush your child’s teeth when they start to get a more “full set.” Still remember to only use water, no toothpaste is necessary.

When To Start Toothpaste? 18 Months

In general, children should not use toothpaste until they are at least 18 months old—and when you do start using toothpaste, make sure it is a safe “children’s toothpaste” made especially for them. Young children have different dental needs than grown-ups—and children’s toothpaste is made for this purpose.

Dr. Hines‘ Advice On What To Look For In A Children’s Toothpaste:

  • SAFE TO SWALLOW: Most young children tend to swallow while brushing, rather than spitting out the toothpaste. Make sure your child’s toothpaste has this in mind.
  • USE A VERY SMALL AMOUNT: Don’t use too much toothpaste—just squeeze a small, pea-size (or smaller) amount onto the toothbrush. Your child doesn’s need much toothpaste to be effective, and you don’t want your child to swallow excess amounts.
  • CONSIDER LOW-FLUORIDE CHILDREN’S TOOTHPASTE: Fluoride is an important element of keeping teeth healthy and strong, but too much fluoride can be harmful for young children. There are varieties of children’s toothpaste that have lower amounts of fluoride or are fluoride-free.
  • FUN FLAVORS: Be prepared to buy several types of toothpaste for your child to try. Some children—especially at the toddler stage—are very picky about flavors and might be reluctant to use a certain flavor of toothpaste. Sometimes letting them pick out their own toothpaste at the store can help get them excited.

When can my child use an adult toothpaste?

When your child is able to spit out most of the toothpaste after brushing they are ready for a toothpaste with fluoride. This usually happens around age 4-6. Even though they may be brushing and spitting better, remember to keep with the small “pea-size” amount to ensure they don’t swallow the extra.

REMEMBER: Brushing your child’s teeth is part of parenting, and you need to start at a young age. By taking the time each day—before bedtime and in the morning—to clean your child’s teeth with a specially-formulated children’s toothpaste, you will be helping to create a lifetime of healthy dental habits and happy smiles!

Leave us a comment on our Facebook page or on Twitter with any other questions you might have about toothpaste for the little ones—or any time you’re in our office we’d love to share more information with you.


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