When should a child start using toothpaste?
Parents know that taking care of small children is a full-time job – and along with diaper changes, bath time, and medical checkups, parents also need to take care of their children’s teeth.
Birth to 18 months: no toothpaste required
Start cleaning your child’s teeth as soon as the teeth begin to come in – but you don’t need toothpaste at first. For babies younger than 18 months, the best way to clean your child’s teeth is with a wet cloth or gauze – without toothpaste. Gently rub your child’s teeth and gums with a cloth over your fingertip – this, along with nursing and/or drinking water, is all the oral hygiene that your child needs at the infant stage. Once your child has more of a “full set” of teeth, you can use a small, soft toothbrush to brush your child’s teeth with water.
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 young ones. Young children have different dental needs than grown-ups – and children’s toothpaste is made for this purpose.
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 – so make sure that your children’s toothpaste is formulated with this in mind.
- Use only a pea-sized amount: Don’t use too much toothpaste – just squeeze a small, pea-size (or smaller) amount onto the toothbrush. Your child doesn’t need much toothpaste to be effective, and you don’t want your child to swallow too much toothpaste.
- 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. Talk to your dentist if you have concerns about fluoride in your child’s toothpaste – several varieties of children’s toothpaste have lower amounts of fluoride or are fluoride-free.
- Fun flavors: Try some different flavors of toothpaste and see what your child likes. Some children – especially at the toddler stage – are very picky about flavors and might be reluctant to use a certain flavor of toothpaste. So be prepared to buy a few different varieties of children’s toothpaste and see which one is your child’s favorite.
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.
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