A kid brushing his teeth

Basics Of Brushing For Kids: What Toothpaste Is Right For Your Toddler?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Eat, bathe, sleep, repeat. Those are the fundamentals of parenting a toddler. If you can master those, you're a rockstar. In between those fundamentals are details and routines that can turn a giggling 2-year-old into a stumbling temper tantrum. While the toddler toothbrushing process can be challenging enough, determining what toothpaste is best for your toddler, fluoride or fluoride-free, shouldn't be. So let us help you figure out the right toddler toothpaste for your little one.

Should They Use Fluoride or Fluoride-Free

Before we answer if your toddler should use fluoride toothpaste or not, we should first ask — what is fluoride, and how does it work? Fluoride:

  • It isn't a synthetic substance made in a lab, but rather a natural element found worldwide.
  • Can be found in some foods (avocado, peaches, lettuce, milk) and community water supplies as it helps strengthen and rebuild tooth surfaces and reduce tooth decay, according to the Fluoride Action Network
  • Battles against the damage bacteria can cause in the demineralization process.
  • Replenishes the calcium and phosphate in the remineralization process to keep your teeth hard and avoid tooth decay

As too much fluoride is unhealthy and can lead to fluorosis, your toddler should be able to follow your toothbrushing direction and spit out their fluoride toothpaste. That often comes when they're in the 3-year-old range. If they're unable to spit as necessary, stick to a fluoride-free toothpaste and speak to your dentist if fluoride supplements are needed.

What Are The Toddler Brushing Basics

Getting your child to cooperate is every parent's hope. When your child is actively allowing you to maintain their proper oral health, it can feel like a miracle. Let's keep the brushing as basic as possible while still making sure their pearly whites and healthy smile stay that way.

  • First, make sure to speak with your dentist as to when they feel your child, in particular, is ready for fluoride toothpaste.
  • Let them pick their toothbrush — superheroes and princesses know how to defeat cavities.
  • Brush their teeth with an American Dental Association approved toothpaste twice a day.
  • Make sure it's a soft-bristled brush and scrub their teeth, gumline, and tongue.
  • Help make the brushing experience fun by integrating a game, song, or sound effects.
  • Mimic brushing your teeth with your finger to give them something to imitate

Every parent's experience helping their toddler along in their brushing journey is a unique one. But we should all make sure it's a healthy one by taking them in for their regular cleanings and speaking to your dentist about fluoride and when to integrate it into their brushing. When that happens, perhaps your new routine will be — eat, bathe, brush, sleep, repeat.


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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