We add this article to our series on ‘toothpastes’ for historical reasons only. The article states, “The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), along with the ADA, recommends that parents begin using a toothpaste with fluoride as soon as the first tooth appears… Just remember to use a rice grain-sized amount of toothpaste.” The article fails to mention that fluoride bio-accumulates in the body. How many rice grain-sized dabs of fluoride, formerly called a “smear,” is in a “pea-size” dollop? See a photo comparing the smear to a pea-size dollop. (EC)
This article was Medically reviewed by Carissa Stephens, R.N., CCRN, CPN
The first tooth is a major milestone. When that first pearly white cuts through, it’s usually a big relief to both parents and babies who’ve been enduring the pains of teething!
But baby’s first teeth also bring an added responsibility to focus on proper dental care, even at a young age. It’s a good idea to get your child used to the process of brushing teeth, using a toothbrush and toothpaste, so it becomes part of your routine, and one less battle during the toddler years.
Technically speaking, you should be practicing proper oral care habits with your baby before their first tooth erupts.
According to American Dental Association (ADA), parents or caregivers should begin cleaning their baby’s mouth within a few days of birth by using a clean damp washcloth or moistened gauze pad.
But once your baby’s teeth begin to appear, you should begin using a toothpaste with fluoride in it, says the ADA.
The short answer is yes. As soon as teeth appear, there’s always a risk of tooth decay and cavities. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), along with the ADA, recommends that parents begin using a toothpaste with fluoride as soon as the first tooth appears.
This is because, according to the AAP, one of the most chronic childhood conditions in the United States is dental caries — the formal term for cavities.
Using fluoride toothpaste can serve as a preventative measure to reduce the risk of cavities forming. Just remember to use a rice grain-sized amount of toothpaste.
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Baby toothpaste is slightly different from the traditional toothpaste that most children and adults use. Babies and toddlers don’t always know how to spit and traditional kinds of toothpaste contain ingredients that aren’t intended for consumption.
Most baby toothpastes are designed to be safe when swallowed. Keep in mind that you might see conflicting information with some experts still recommending that parents avoid toothpaste with fluoride for infants and toddlers.
Still, there are some ingredients that you’ll want to avoid, namely sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), essential oils, and harsh abrasive ingredients. SLS is a detergent that has been shown to cause canker sores.
Meanwhile, essential oils are often added to toothpaste and promoted as all-natural because of their natural antimicrobial properties. But babies are still developing their oral microbiome. So, essential oil ingredients can inhibit that production.
And finally, abrasive ingredients normally found in toothpaste geared toward adults for whitening should be completely avoided. These ingredients can damage the enamel on your child’s teeth.
So, what should you prioritize as you shop for baby toothpaste? Part of this answer is going to depend on whether you want to follow AAP or ADA recommendations. If you do, then toothpaste with fluoride is going to be a priority.
But, many baby toothpastes are fluoride-free. So, if you’re concerned about that, speak with your pediatrician or dentist about whether fluoride is necessary. Outside of fluoride, consider the following factors:
ADA seal of approval
The ADA seal helps to give you peace of mind that you’re picking a toothpaste that’s been approved by one of the foremost dental organizations in the United States and is safe for your baby’s dental care.
Safe to swallow
Like we mentioned, babies haven’t learned how to purposely spit. So, you need toothpaste that’s safe if swallowed. Most baby toothpastes are designed with this feature as a priority.
As compared to adult toothpaste, you’ll find that mint flavoring isn’t common in baby toothpaste. This is because babies tend to like gentler flavor profiles and may find stronger flavors like mint too intense. Typically baby toothpaste is designed to taste like fruits.
Picking baby toothpaste doesn’t have to tax your brain too much, but it may require a bit of trial and error depending on the flavor and whether your baby likes it or not.
To create our short list, we focused on whether a brand contained fluoride, flavor, if they were ADA approved, and of course reviews from real parents.
A note on price
The toothpastes below are sold in different sized tubes, and some come in multi-packs while others are sold with toothbrushes. Price per tube ranges from about $3 to $9, at time of publication.
The Orajel toothpaste is designed with tiny tots in mind. It’s intended for children as young as 4 months up through 24 months or 2 years old. It’s free from alcohol, SLS, parabens, aspartame, dyes, and sugar. Parents say their little ones like the berry flavor and it’s also safe to swallow.
This two-in-one solution comes with a baby-friendly giraffe shaped toothbrush that’s a great size for banishing plaque from little mouths. This toothpaste is another fluoride-free option but is designed for children from newborn to 3 years old.
Dr. Brown’s toothpaste is also safe to swallow and is made with a strawberry flavor that’s free from artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.
If your little one loves the taste of bananas, this pick from Radius is a great choice. The coconut banana-flavored toothpaste is USDA certified organic. There are no synthetic foaming agents, chemicals, or GMO-based ingredients, and it’s rated safe for children ages 6 months and older.
This BPA-free, dye-free, and gluten-free kids toothpaste is safe to swallow. Note that this is also a fluoride-free toothpaste.
Babies prefer sweet flavors, so this watermelon toothpaste may be quite the crowd-pleaser. This is another safe-to-swallow solution that’s free from harsh ingredients like SLS, parabens, gluten, dyes, and even artificial sweeteners.
If you’re concerned about ethical production, you’ll appreciate that Hello is a Leaping Bunny certified brand. Also, note that this toothpaste is vegan-friendly and the packaging is BPA-free.
Toothbrush sets are great for when you’re just starting to build a good dental care routine with your little one. This set from Colgate comes with a 1.75-ounce tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush with a smaller brush head.
The brush has extra soft bristles to gently reach all the nooks and crannies in your baby’s mouth. The infant and toddler toothpaste is designed with a mild fruit flavor that’s safe if swallowed. The toothpaste is fluoride-free and also free from SLS, preservatives, and artificial flavors.
This two-pack of organic toothpaste is a great way to stay stocked up on oral care supplies. You’ll like that this toothpaste is vegan-friendly, gluten-free, SLS-free, and is certified cruelty-free as well. Note that this is another fluoride-free option.
The safe-to-swallow toothpaste comes in two different flavors — banana and raspberry. This pick has xylitol and calendula, which the brand claims have been added to help reduce the risk of cavities while also soothing gums and fighting tooth decay.
If you have a baby that balks at toothpaste with a paste-like texture, this softer gel formula from Tom’s of Maine might be a great alternative.
This is another fluoride-free baby toothpaste that’s safe to swallow. The mild fruit flavor is free from artificial colors, flavors, fragrances, or preservatives. This toothpaste is formulated for babies from 3 months to 2 years old.
A mild strawberry toothpaste flavor combines with a complete oral care kit so that you can take the guesswork out of finding the right toothbrush for your little one.
You’ll get two 1.6-ounce tubes of safe-to-swallow toothpaste and four miniature toothbrushes featuring Winnie the Pooh. This toothpaste is also fluoride-free but is free from SLS, artificial flavors, dyes, and sweeteners.
Caring for your baby’s oral health is important since you’re instilling behaviors that can serve as the basis for healthy habits.
Even though these are your baby’s first teeth — and they’ll lose them and get their permanent teeth — you want to ensure that they’re learning to care for their teeth by minimizing the risk of cavities and other dental health concerns.
Last medically reviewed on January 24, 2021
- Alli BY, et al. (2019). Effect of sodium lauryl sulfate on recurrent aphthous stomatitis: A systematic review.
- Clark MB, et al. (2014). Fluoride use in caries prevention in the primary care setting.
- Healthy habits. (n.d.)