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Toothpaste sales are a billion-dollar industry, so the competition and marketing are fierce to capture your attention and money. With few exceptions, almost all kinds of toothpaste are ADA (American Dental Assoc.) approved for safety and effectiveness and contain the same basic ingredients:

Abrasives- Hydrated silica or calcium salts help scrape plaque off teeth with the brush.

Moisturizing agents- Glycerin or sorbitol allow the paste to goosh and squoosh over the teeth.

Thickeners- this helps to keep the paste from dissolving too quickly in the mouth.

Surfactants/ foaming agents- Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or others act as detergents to bind and lift plaque, debris, and bacteria off the teeth. Rarely, children can have an allergic reaction to SLS producing red or swollen lips and tongue or sore mouths.

Active ingredients- Many kinds of toothpaste claim activity, but for children, the most important part of toothpaste is the fluoride. Fluoride acts to neutralize the acid, remineralize teeth, kill bacteria and act as a catalyst for saliva to protect the teeth.

Flavors- The rest is marketing. No toothpaste contains sugar, but plenty has sweeteners and coloring agents. Baking soda could be listed in this category since it dissolves rapidly in saliva making it neither an abrasive or bacteria killer.

The Bottom Line- The most effective toothpaste is the one your child will use regularly in a supervised daily hygiene regimen. If it tastes terrible to you but yummy to him or her, that’s the one they should use. Remember to treat toothpaste like a medicine, however, and dispense a half pea size amount for your child younger than age six. Too much toothpaste eaten or swallowed at a young age will cause white spotting or mottling of the permanent teeth.