Is Children's Toothpaste Different from That of Adults?

Children's toothpaste and adult toothpaste differ in packaging, flavor, sweeteners, and abrasives. Learn more about the differences.
Is Children's Toothpaste Different from That of Adults?
Vanesa Evangelina Buffa

Written and verified by the dentist Vanesa Evangelina Buffa.

Last update: 09 May, 2023

When it comes to choosing oral healthcare products for your family, the sheer number of options can be overwhelming. In this article, we’ll clarify the differences between children’s toothpaste and adult toothpaste so you can make an informed choice.

Toothpaste flavors and packaging are the first difference you’ll notice on store shelves. But when it comes to choosing the best alternative, there are other aspects to consider. Keep reading to learn more about them.

The differences between children’s toothpaste and that of adults

There are very obvious differences between toothpastes for children and those for adults and others that require looking at the ingredients specified on the label. These are the main characteristics in which they differ:

  • Flavors: Little ones aren’t usually attracted to mint or the fresh tastes of adult toothpastes. Children’s toothpaste is designed to satisfy their preferences, so fruit or chewing gum flavors prevail.
  • Packaging: Toothpaste packaging is another notable difference. Adult products have plain packaging. On the other hand, children’s presentations have colorful packaging with characters that motivate little ones to get involved in their oral hygiene.
  • Sweeteners: To improve the taste of toothpaste, they contain sweeteners. Saccharin, sorbitol, or xylitol are usually used for this purpose. If possible, products containing the latter ingredient should be preferred, as it has antimicrobial properties that favor plaque control.
  • Abrasives: These are substances that are incorporated into toothpaste for the purpose of facilitating mechanical cleaning of the toothbrush on the tooth surface. Children’s toothpaste is usually less abrasive than that of adults.
Dental hygiene products for children.
Children’s toothpaste usually has flashy packaging and fruity or chewing gum flavors, as they’re better tolerated by the little ones.

The fluoride content in children’s and adults’ toothpaste

One of the main differences between children’s and adults’ toothpaste is the amount of fluoride they contain. This is a natural element that helps prevent cavities and promotes remineralization of tooth enamel. Because the needs of these age groups are different, the concentration of the mineral differs between products.

Toothpaste for children tends to have less fluoride. This is because if young children consume too much of the element during this time, they can develop a condition known as fluorosis. This occurs while teeth are still forming and manifests itself in the form of white spots, brownish streaking, or small dimples as they erupt.

Fluoride in children’s toothpaste

It’s currently recommended that children’s toothpaste have more than 1,000 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride. However, some children’s products currently on the market are so low in fluoride that they don’t prevent tooth decay. For this reason, when choosing your children’s toothpaste, it’s key to check the label.

The European Union regulates a maximum limit of 1,500 ppm of fluoride in over-the-counter dental products. They must specify the concentration of the product and explain the appropriate dosage for children. The use of toothpastes with higher amounts of the mineral should be used only under the dentist’s prescription. Adult toothpastes usually contain between 1,200 and 1,450 ppm of the mineral.

The way to avoid fluorosis is to properly dose the amount of toothpaste used when brushing children’s teeth.

When to start using toothpaste in children?

Taking care of oral health early on has many benefits for children. Establishing the habit of brushing with toothpaste is a practice that avoids many mishaps and will accompany the child throughout their life. The time to start doing it is as soon as the first tooth appears.

The Spanish Association of Pediatrics recommends brushing children’s teeth with children’s toothpaste containing 1,000 ppm of fluoride as soon as the first teeth erupt. The amount of product to be used varies according to the age of the children:

  • Children from 0 to 3 years of age: Brush all teeth present in the mouth 2 times a day, with toothpaste containing 1 000 ppm fluoride. The portion of the product to be used should be smaller than the size of a grain of rice.
  • Children from 3 to 6 years old: Use toothpaste with 1,000 to 1,450 ppm of fluoride in an amount equivalent to the size of a pea.
  • 6 years of age and older: 1,450 ppm fluoride toothpaste can be used in an amount similar to the size of a chickpea. As children gain better control of their spitting ability, the dosage of paste to be used can be increased.

It’s important that parents take care of the dosage of toothpaste used by their children to avoid excessive use. Also, make sure that children don’t eat or suck on the contents of the tubes.

How to choose the right toothpaste for your family

The right toothpaste for each member of your family depends on their particular needs and preferences. It’s important to shop not only by the look of the packaging but also by the ingredients in the product. If your child is young, you should try to choose a toothpaste with enough fluoride to protect them from cavities, but take care to dose it accordingly to avoid fluorosis.

When your child is older and has mastered the ability to spit, you can look for an alternative that will be useful for the whole family. If you have doubts about which toothpaste is the most convenient for your family, don’t hesitate to consult your trusted dentist. They’ll be able to advise you on the most suitable options for you and your children.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.