Just as there are foods for kids and foods for adults, there are kid-friendly oral care products distinct from their grown-up counterparts. Toothpaste and mouthwash for children typically feature kid-friendly flavors and graphics that make taking care of the teeth and gums a bit more fun. Although you can introduce your child to toothpastes like My First Colgate™ from infancy, however, it is typically recommended that you wait to introduce him to mouthwash until a certain age.
Are Your Kids Ready?
Typically, mouthwash isn't recommended for kids under the age of six. There are two reasons for this: The first is that some types of mouthwash for children contain fluoride. And although fluoride is great at preventing tooth decay – it can reduce decay by up to 60 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – too much too early on can cause fluorosis.
Fluorosis can occur only when a child's teeth are still forming, and the condition causes changes to the color and texture of the teeth. A child's teeth might develop white or brown spots, or the surface of the teeth may even be bumpy. Fortunately, fluorosis is just cosmetic, and can be prevented by making sure your child doesn't use mouthwash too soon or swallow his fluoride toothpaste.
Keep in mind that even when your child's teeth are ready for mouthwash, your child might not be. Mouthwash should be spit out, just like toothpaste, but it can be tricky for young kids to get use to swishing the liquid rather than swallowing it like a beverage. One way to test your child and see if he is ready to use a mouthwash is to have him take a sip of water, swish it around his mouth and then spit it out into the sink. If kids can handle rinsing with water, they can most likely handle mouthwash.
Benefits of Mouthwash
Mouthwash is meant to boost the effects of flossing and brushing once and twice a day, respectively. It can help give kids fresher breath, if that's a concern for them. Mouthwashes that contain fluoride also provide an extra dose of cavity protection for kids over the age of six. If your child wears braces, mouthwash can loosen bits of food that often get stuck in the brackets, ensuring a more thorough cleaning job until the braces come off, according to Nemours. Using a mouthwash can also be helpful for kids who haven't yet mastered brushing or flossing yet, allowing them to reach areas they aren't able to.
When your child first starts using a mouthwash, it's a good idea to provide some supervision to make sure he doesn't accidentally swallow it. Start the process with Children's Anticavity Fluoride Rinse, and make a game out of using the product for kids around the age of seven or eight. Get a stopwatch and time them for about a minute, then yell "spit!" or "go!" when it's time to spit it out. Supervising your child in the early stages of using a mouthwash will also let you make sure that he is brushing and flossing before using the rinse.
Because mouthwash isn't a must-use for every child, check in with your child's dentist before using it. He might decide that a mouthwash will indeed benefit your kid's teeth. Choosing a product made for kids will help get them excited about another step in their oral care routine, too.