The Reverie

When Can Kids Use Adult Toothpaste? An Oral Surgeon Explains

Wondering when kids can make the switch to adult toothpaste? Our resident oral surgeon Dr. Jacci has the answer, plus expert insights to help little ones establish better brushing habits.
When Can Kids Use Adult Toothpaste? An Oral Surgeon Explains

Kids begin forming habits by age 9—and one of the most important habits they can form is a healthy oral care routine. This ensures that children have proper dental hygiene as they grow up and maneuver their independence.

When it comes to oral care for little ones, one of the most common questions parents have is: When can kids start using adult toothpaste?

There are a few factors that go into that answer—and we’ll cover them coming up. Keep reading to learn the milestones of tooth brushing, the difference between adult and kids toothpaste, and best practices for brushing tiny teeth.

When Can Kids Use Adult Toothpaste?

The exact answer varies depending on when the child can spit on their own because they’re not allowed to swallow fluoride, as it is toxic (more on this later).

Since younger kids can’t swallow fluoride and don’t know how to spit yet, they should use toothpaste specifically designed for kids, ranging in flavors and purpose until they reach a certain age. Children typically transition to using adult toothpaste when they reach the milestone of being able to spit, which typically occurs around the age of six.

As children grow older and gain more control over their oral hygiene routines, they can safely use adult toothpaste formulations for better dental care. If you’re unsure whether your child can handle adult toothpaste yet, consult your dentist for advice.

What’s the Difference Between Kids Toothpaste and Adult Toothpaste?

There are two main differences between kid's toothpaste and adult toothpaste: fluoride content and flavor. Let’s explore both of these factors.

1. Fluoride

Many adult toothpastes contain fluoride which, if ingested in large amounts, can cause upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and, in extreme cases, fluoride toxicity. The American Dental Association (ADA) only recommends fluoride toothpaste for adults and kids who can spit.

An alternative to fluoride for remineralization and cavity protection is hydroxyapatite toothpaste.

2. Flavor

Besides fluoride, adult toothpaste and children's toothpaste also differ in flavor. Kids toothpaste typically contains a sweet and fruity flavor versus a minty flavor that kids usually think tastes “spicy.” While kids might prefer these sweeter flavors, however, associating sweet taste with clean teeth may not be the best for building a strong oral care routine into the future. I recommend introducing a mild mint flavor when children start growing teeth.

When Do Kids Need to Start Brushing Their Teeth?

Children should have their teeth brushed as soon as the first tooth erupts, which typically occurs between 4 and 7 months. A parent or guardian should do the brushing until the child is between age 6 and 9. The earlier the better, as habits are easier to form up to age 9.

It’s important to be consistent with brushing your child’s teeth because you’re teaching them how to implement a routine and keep it once they’re old enough to brush alone. It can be a great all-family routine in the morning and at bedtime to ensure kids are properly brushing and for the dentist-recommended full 2 minutes.

How Much Toothpaste Should Kids Use?

Whether your child prefers a minty or fruity taste, the amount of toothpaste they should use depends on their age because of the amount of teeth they have grown in. For instance, kids aged 0-3 years should use the size of a rice grain, and kids aged 3-6 years should use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.

Give Your Kids a Better & Better Way to Brush

Since kids need to steer clear of fluoride, Better & Better provides safe, fluoride-free toothpaste options with a mild mint flavor so that kids don’t associate sweet tastes with clean teeth.

While choosing the right toothpaste for your child is important, so is choosing the right toothbrush that will fit in their hands and be a sustainable option. That’s where Better & Better’s Natural Bamboo Toothbrush for Kids comes in.

Made from beautiful bamboo, this toothbrush has a smaller handle than our adult toothbrushes so it can fit in little hands. It also has a replaceable brush head with soft, 100% plant-based bristles that are gentle on gums and tough on gunk. Just remove the old brush head from the reusable handle, replace it with a new one, and keep brushing better.

It’s never been easier to help your little one delight the dentist and establish habits that are good for their health—and the health of the planet.

Dr. Jaclyn Tomsic, MD, DMD, FACS, is a board-certified Oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMF) based out of Cleveland, OH. OMF involves extensive dental and medical education and training to achieve surgical expertise and an unparalleled understanding of esthetics. Being an OMF surgeon qualifies Dr. Tomsic to treat conditions, defects, injuries, and esthetic aspects of the mouth, teeth, jaw, and face. Learn more about Dr. Jacci on her website, and follow her on Instagram at @doctorjacci.

Kids can start using adult toothpaste when they're able to spit on their own, since it's unsafe for them to accidentally swallow fluoride.