Teaching your children to take care of their teeth and gums is as important as encouraging them to eat well and get enough sleep: Poor dental health in childhood has been linked to a number of health conditions in adulthood, including cardiovascular disease.
Good oral hygiene practices for children looks an awful lot like it does for adults: children should brush their teeth for two minutes twice per day, using a toothbrush, floss, and toothpaste.
Toothbrushes and floss are pretty standard-issue, and most dentists agree that frequency and duration of brushing and the fact of flossing is more important than which type of brush or floss is used. But when it comes to which toothpaste is best for children, it's important to choose carefully.
Ingredients to look out for
Many conventional toothpastes contain triclosan, an antibacterial compound that fights gingivitis, but that has been found to alter hormone regulation and jeopardize the immune system. Another offender in many children’s conventional toothpastes is propylene glycol, a solvent also found in antifreeze and other household products. Other questionable additives include the synthetic dye FD&C Blue 1, which is produced from petroleum, and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)—a chemical responsible for creating lather that may cause canker sores. Read more about 4 toothpaste ingredients to avoid at all costs.
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What about fluoride?
Conventional toothpaste also contains fluoride, a mineral that strengthens tooth enamel. In recent years, fluoride has become a controversial topic. Studies have found a correlation between high levels of fluoride in drinking water and diminished IQ in children (in China) as well as higher incidences of hypothyroidism (in the UK). But children have to ingest large amounts of fluoride before it becomes hazardous, and the small amount that may be swallowed during tooth-brushing is not considered risky. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association both recommend fluoride use as part of a comprehensive oral health care plan, and 50 years of research showing the benefits of fluoride in toothpaste backs them up. (Even so, very young children who are inclined to swallow toothpaste should not be given toothpaste with fluoride.)
Synthetic air fresheners also expose your kids to dangerous chemicals—here's how to make a safe, natural version in seconds!
How to choose a good natural toothpaste
The first thing to know when shopping for a natural toothpaste is that the term is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Companies are at liberty to market their goods as “natural” if they want to, so it’s especially important that you read the labels carefully.
For this list, we’ve rounded up kids toothpastes that are free of sketchy chemicals, and that are made by companies that are transparent about what their products contain. Many of them do not contain fluoride, but some brands offer both fluoride-free and fluoride versions, and one is only available with fluoride.
We also wanted our picks to be widely available through some of our favorite online shops like Amazon, Walgreens, and Target. We also made sure our selections were approved by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit entity that researches the safety and efficacy of cosmetic and household products, as well as their environmental impact.
Below are the best natural toothpastes for kids.