Preventing Cavities In Children – Fluoride or Non Fluoride Toothpaste?
Do you dread entering the toothpaste aisle at your local grocery/pharmacy/ superstore? Does it make you feel overwhelmed, under informed and just plain outraged at the sheer volume of choices? You’re not alone. The size of the oral health aisle has ballooned in recent years and that’s here in Canada – You should see what how many more options there are if you go into a store on the U.S.! Tartar- fighting, enamel protecting, anti-gingivitis, plaque eliminating, tooth whitening, anti-bacterial, sensitivity reducing, health promoting, all natural, eco friendly toothpaste confusion. Really, all are meant to prevent cavities in children.
Luckily you need not fret any longer; allow me to simplify the process for you. There are really only two kinds of toothpastes. 1- Non fluoride toothpaste. 2- Fluoridated toothpaste. Everything else is marketing. A third category of high fluoride and a fourth category of sensitivity reducing toothpastes may be considered for adults – but for the purposes of our discussion on children’s toothpaste’s they are not really applicable.
There are really only two kinds of toothpastes. 1- Non fluoride toothpaste. 2- Fluoridated toothpaste. Everything else is marketing.
So which do you choose to prevent cavities in children? Non fluoride toothpaste is also marketed as “safe to swallow” or “infant” or “toddler” are best thought of as “training toothpastes” and many American brands and packaging use this term. The idea is that is shouldn’t be age restricted to infants or toddlers nor should you just think of it as something to swallow. What it is, is to train youngsters to spit out the toothpaste residue after brushing, and until they can reliably do that its best to use a toothpaste that is not harmful if ingested. Like training wheels on a bike, the goal is to safely teach the children to get beyond the stage where it is necessary.
What it is, is to train youngsters to spit out the toothpaste residue after brushing, and until they can reliably do that its best to use a toothpaste that is not harmful if ingested.
Practically every other toothpaste is the same. They all contain the same amount of sodium fluoride – 0.243% by weight. Sometimes it is expressed in parts per million –ppm- sometimes as just the fluoride ion content but its all the same. It is the only active ingredient and the only relevant detail, everything else is just marketing – from gels to pastes, flavours or colours, sparkles and mouthwash flakes, or whomever the characters on the tube – its makes no clinical difference. This is not to say that it doesn’t make a difference for your child. It can matter hugely to your child – characters and flavours can be the most critical aspects and that’s why you need to keep trying to find something that is to your child’s liking.
So what’s with all of these claims that you needn’t pay attention to? They are all benefits of brushing your teeth with a fluoride containing toothpaste:
Plaque is a usually white, sticky bacteria filled film that builds up on your teeth. Its removal is the largest goal of brushing your teeth. It is physically removed by the mechanical action of bristles brushing it away. It happens independent of toothpaste.
Tartar is the lay term for what dentists call calculus. For us it is a hard plaque, not a hard math – though it is that too! Plaque that is left undisturbed for long periods of time (several days to weeks – depending on your mouth) will calcify, or harden and turn into calculus. So – no plaque, no calculus.
Tooth enamel can be dissolved by plaque and its by-products. – which is to say that mineral content is removed. Fluoride can replace some of lost mineral content and the remade enamel surface is more resistant to further dissolving. So simplified – fluoride protects and strengthens enamel.
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums or gingival. Nearly always because of the presence of plaque and bacteria – remove the plaque (see above) and the inflammation goes away as well.
As we said earlier – plaque is bacteria so if you remove plaque you are removing bacteria.
Whitening is a misnomer – bleaching is a more appropriate term. It is best accomplished by trays, gels, strips or other products that spend more than two minutes in contact with the teeth – but that’s a topic for another day.
This one is true of some toothpastes. Toothpastes that contain potassium nitrate – or other similar active ingredients will reduce tooth sensitivity temporarily. Very few kids complain about the type of tooth sensitivity that can be helped by this component.
All of these things help improve other health – therefore they are health promoting.
All natural, eco friendly
I’ve never seen a Toothpaste Tree, have you? Toothpaste is made in a factory along with just about every other product outside of fruits and vegetables.
So go ahead and let your child roam the toothpaste aisle and pick whatever they like. There is bound to be some combination or packaging, colour character and flavour that is to their liking – or simplify and just buy the stuff that’s on sale for 88 cents. The important thing is use it with your toothbrush twice a day.
1. If your child swallows the toothpaste when you are brushing, choose fluoride-free “training” or “safe to swallow” toothpaste.
2. If your child can, and will, reliably spit out the toothpaste when you are done brushing, choose any character, colour, brand, flavor, or style of fluoride toothpaste that your child likes and will make brushing the most fun for them.