The Hidden Danger of Using Your Kid’s Toothpaste

Updated: Oct. 09, 2017

Don't get hooked on your kid's toothpaste—there could be consequences for your smile.

We get it: You want the Minions Watermelon toothpaste…

smileTatiana Ayazo /, shutterstockSo you’re about the brush your teeth when you realize you’re out of toothpaste, and the only one available is your children’s bubble-gum flavored version. What to do? Brush with the sweet, candy-tasting kids toothpaste until you get to the drugstore. Hey, it’s better than nothing, right? Right, but don’t go overboard, says Frederick Baker, DDS, of Lakeview Dental Associates in Parsippany, NJ. “If adults use children’s toothpaste every once in a blue moon, it won’t hurt. But I would not recommend making it a habit,” he says. Though it’s probably not as bad as these 30 everyday mistakes people make that ruin their teeth.

Kiddie toothpaste lacks much-needed fluoride

According to Dr. Baker, most children’s toothpaste—as tasty as it may be!—has a much lower content of fluoride compared to toothpaste for teens and adults. This is because kids sometimes swallow toothpaste while brushing, and ingesting too much fluoride for a child can cause a harmful reaction in the kidney.

“Adults need more fluoride than kids because as we age we can cause much ‘wear and tear’ on our enamel—through chewing, grinding of the teeth, and so forth,” explains Dr. Baker. “Also, many acidic foods can cause damage to the dental enamel so the extra fluoride is added protection.” Here are 11 things your dentist needs you to start doing.

Opt for alcohol-free mouthwash

If you use a kid’s toothpaste, Dr. Baker recommends you supplement their brushing with an adult fluoride mouthwash to increase the activity of fluoride on the teeth. “If you’re only using a kids’ toothpaste, and no mouthwash, the enamel on your adult teeth is more susceptible to tooth decay.” He recommends Listerine Zero mouthwash. “There is no burn and no side effects of alcohol. You should look for mouthwash that has a good level of sodium fluoride and an alcohol-free base.” Your dentist has some more things he wishes you new—13, to be exact.

It’s important to note that the alcohol content in a mouthwash is controversial, which is why Dr. Baker thinks alcohol-based mouthwash should be avoided, if possible. “Some studies say that alcohol in mouthwash can cause oral sores and possibly oral cancer. Also, the alcohol can kill good bacteria as well as the bad bacteria in your mouth.”

Monitor kid’s mouthwash

Meanwhile, kids shouldn’t use adult mouthwash because, like fluoride, swallowing small amounts of alcohol is counterproductive to a growing body. (By the way, are you properly caring for your baby’s teeth?) “When choosing a mouthwash or rinse for your child, make sure to choose a product that doesn’t contain alcohol,” says Joseph Lichter, DDS, a Brooklyn, NY-based dentist. “An oral hygiene routine that includes gentle mouthwash can help keep young teeth and gums healthy, but it’s important that kid’s mouthwash be used safely. The American Dental Association (ADA) suggests that children younger than age six shouldn’t use mouthwashes that contain fluoride.”

What to avoid in kiddie toothpaste

Dr. Baker recommends you avoid toothpaste that contains the detergent sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS—it’s why toothpate foams). This ingredient can cause aphthous ulcers, commonly known as canker sores. “Why risk developing canker sores by using a toothpaste with SLS, which most adult toothpastes contain?,” says Dr. Baker. “There are a few out there that do not have SLS.”

Bubble gum flave for adults

If you’ve always been secretly bummed that you can’t find adult toothpaste in fun bubble gum flavors, cheer up. “There are toothpastes that vary in flavor, you just have to do your research and try the ones you like,” says Dr. Baker. “I’ve seen a variety of flavors mixed with mint including orange and some tropical flavors, but I prefer the traditional mint variety to make my mouth feel the most clean.”