As adults, toothpaste is just another part of our daily oral hygiene routine. But for kids, using it can be a fun and important experience! Today, the Children’s Dental Center will tell you: When should my child start using toothpaste?

A Timeline

Here are a few key age groups and how our doctors recommend incorporating toothpaste into their routine:

1. Infants (Up to 3 Years Old)

  • First Tooth Emergence: You should try brushing your child’s teeth with a soft-bristled, child-sized toothbrush and just a smear (about the size of a grain of rice) of fluoride toothpaste when the first tooth comes in.
  • Twice Daily Brushing: It’s ideal to brush your child’s teeth twice a day, in the morning and before bedtime.
  • Supervision: Ensure you’re brushing your infant’s teeth until the point when they are able to hold and maneuver the toothbrush effectively on their own, which usually occurs around the age of 3.

2. Toddlers (Ages 3 to 6)

  • Pea-Sized Amount: From the age of 3, you can increase the size to a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Twice Daily Brushing: Continue to brush your child’s teeth twice a day, demonstrating how it’s done as you go.
  • Teaching Proper Technique: You can start teaching your child how to brush properly, ensuring they’re covering all surfaces of their teeth. It’s important to supervise this process to make sure they have good technique and that they aren’t consuming too much toothpaste!
  • Encouraging Spitting: With that said, teach your child to spit out the toothpaste after brushing. Swallowing too much fluoride isn’t good for them.

3. School-aged children (Ages 6 and Up)

  • Continued Use of Fluoride Toothpaste: As your child grows, they can start to use toothpaste similar to what you use.
  • Independence: Children can begin brushing their teeth independently—but you should still check in regularly to double-check that they’re doing it properly, especially if you know they have issues with it.

When Should My Child Start Using Toothpaste?

Why Brushing Counts

At Children’s Dental Center, two essentials we try to drive home for kids are brushing and flossing, which is absolutely key. There are many reasons toothpaste is important in that process, too.

1. Removal of Plaque and Bacteria

  • Cleaning: Toothpaste helps kids remove plaque, food particles, and bacteria from the teeth and gums. This helps them to maintain a clean and healthy mouth when their teeth are their most vulnerable.
  • Reduction of Bacteria: Toothpaste helps prevent gum disease and bad breath by reducing bacteria.

2. Prevention of Tooth Decay

  • Fluoride Content: Many children’s toothpaste contains a key ingredient called fluoride, which helps to make enamel strong and prevent cavities. For both kids and adults, fluoride makes teeth more resistant to acid formed from bacteria and excess sugars in the mouth.
  • Cavity Prevention: Regular use of fluoride toothpaste helps reduce the risk of cavities, which are very common in children. Cavities can be extremely painful and need additional treatment.

3. Healthy Oral Hygiene Habits

  • Flavor and Appeal: One benefit of children’s toothpaste is that it often comes in kid-friendly flavors and cute packaging, making brushing more enjoyable. This can include images of their favorite TV and film characters, making it a fun process. This manner of positive reinforcement can make children more willing to brush their teeth, fostering a positive attitude toward their oral health from an early age.

4. Gentle on Young Teeth and Gums

  • Formulation: Children’s toothpaste is specially formulated to be gentle on their teeth and gums as they develop. Adult toothpaste is usually a bit more abrasive, but the gentle variety is definitely better for kids. The same goes for the levels of fluoride and other ingredients.

5. Education and Awareness

  • Learning Tool: Using children’s toothpaste can be an optimal opportunity to educate kids about how vital oral hygiene is. Parents and caregivers can teach children how to brush effectively.
  • Routine Establishment: Incorporating the use of toothpaste into daily routines helps create consistent brushing habits, which are critical for long-term oral health.

6. Protection of Primary Teeth

  • Early Care: Caring for primary (aka baby) teeth is essential as their job is to hold space for permanent teeth, as well as play a role in speech development and chewing. Using toothpaste helps keep those teeth healthy until the day they naturally fall out.
  • Avoiding Early Loss: Preventing decay in primary teeth avoids losing teeth early, which can lead to future alignment issues and other dental problems since it encourages permanent teeth to enter improperly.

7. Fresh Breath

  • Freshness: While children’s toothpaste often comes in milder or more unconventional flavors, it still helps them in maintaining fresh breath, contributing to overall oral comfort and confidence with their peers.

8. Special Ingredients

  • Sensitive Teeth: Some young children experience discomfort from hot or cold foods and can use children’s toothpaste, which is specially formulated for sensitive teeth and provides relief and protection.
When Should My Child Start Using Toothpaste?

Setting Them Up to Succeed

We hope you can now confidently guide your child into using toothpaste for the first time or can more easily navigate that process. Children’s Dental Center is here to answer any patient questions and welcome new ones. You can visit one of our three amazing locations: Collierville, Midtown, or Arlington.