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Ask the average informed parent with a toddler about packaged foods and many will express some concern about chemical additives. The main culprits being artificial colors, and preservatives and the effects they may have on their children’s health. Sadly, many parents don’t take into account the same concerns when it comes to personal care products such as toothpaste. The fact is, however, most major toothpaste brands contain as many (and in a lot of cases more) harmful chemical additives that pose genuine health implications for the very young. In the following article, we’re going to take a closer look at what we consider to be the best toothpaste for toddlers on the market today and make the case for throwing away the more popular brands of toothpaste you may currently be using. You will also learn why dental hygiene is vitally important for toddlers and why you should care about the health of your toddler’s ‘baby teeth’.
The Problem with Toothpaste
Were you aware that the majority of popular toothpaste available today come with a health warning? It’s easy to miss after all most of us don’t even bother to read the labels of the foods we are consuming, let alone personal care products.
In some cases, the warning may be replaced with specific directions.
The reason for the warning is due to the harmful additives most common toothpaste contains such as artificial colors (many that aren’t permitted in food products), foaming agents (Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate), Triclosan (An EPA registered pesticide) and of course Fluoride which is a known toxic agent.
These additives have the capacity to cause harm, regardless of age but are even more of a concern for the very young as they are more sensitive to additives and less capable of removing them from their systems.
I’ll cover the additives listed above that are commonly found in toothpaste in more detail later in the article and list some of the common health implications associated with each, but for now let’s focus on the specific issues parents of toddlers face when it comes to toothpaste, as a result of additives.
Why do we need to be Careful with Toothpaste for Toddlers?
Swallowing of harmful additives
As adults, we know that we shouldn’t swallow toothpaste. But let’s face it when it comes to toddlers, do you really know how much they might be consuming? The fact is toddlers have far less developed swallowing reflexes and as a result, it’s difficult to really know how much of these toxic agents are finding their way into your toddler’s bloodstream.
It’s not like you can simply explain the risks either. Toddlers are typically between 12 to 36 months of age which as most parents are aware is an age where verbal communication is challenging.
Toddlers also have a tendency to put everything in their mouths and in the absence of more developed senses will often use taste as a way to discover the world around them.
Absorbing harmful additives
Aside from swallowing, your mouth is also very efficient at absorption, this is why there are a number of medications that are successfully administered beneath the tongue. As a result, many additives in toothpaste don’t even need to be swallowed to find their way into your toddler’s bloodstream.
Additives can be absorbed through the mucous membrane that lines the inside of your mouth (Oral Mucosa). Once absorbed these additives find their way into the bloodstream and before long begin to build up in the nervous system, and organs. Very little research has been done to examine the harmful effects even minimal recommended doses can cause with sustained use over many years, and considering it’s recommended that we brush our teeth 2-3 times per day it is a valid concern.
Why it’s Important to Brush Toddler’s Teeth
I know what you are probably thinking right about now.
With all of this information on additives and their potential dangers, nobody could really blame you if you thought it wiser to just stop using toothpaste altogether for toddlers, after all, baby teeth soon fall out. But as you will learn in this section that’s also a terrible idea from a health perspective.
Toddlers usually start teething at around 6 months of age, and by the age of three, most toddlers have a full set of what we know as ‘baby’ teeth or primary teeth. Once the first tooth appears it’s important to start maintaining the health of your toddler’s teeth. In fact, it’s also recommended that prior to the first tooth appearing that the gums are also cared for by cleaning with a washer after meals.
Dental health is important, and not just to avoid cavities, especially when it comes to the very young. The mouth is an entry point for toxins and pathogens, good dental hygiene reduces the risk of disease.
Dental hygiene is also important for toddlers for a number of reasons aside from general health including:
- The development of speech along with facial expression
- The ability to chew which aids good nutrition
- Baby teeth help ensure a correct pathway for the development of adult teeth and reduce the risk of your child requiring orthodontics. Baby teeth are often referred to by dentists as ‘nature’s braces’.
As you can see it’s important to start taking care of your toddler’s teeth as soon as they begin to appear, and that requires a cleaning agent such as toothpaste.
The Harmful Additives Found in most Toothpaste
So what’s the problem? Why can’t we brush our toddler’s teeth with regular toothpaste. Sure there are additives, but they are regulated and couldn’t possibly be harmful. Isn’t this all just scaremongering?
It really isn’t, I don’t say this to alarm you but I do want to make a compelling case for you to consider changing the toothpaste you are currently using. The facts speak for themselves. There are many concerning additives in popular toothpaste that the majority of the general public have never stopped to question. Instead, we place our trust in a flawed system that doesn’t really offer us or our children sufficient protection. The fact is, you need to take action yourself as a great number of popular foods and cosmetic items have seriously dubious health credentials. That’s a concern for adults in itself but when it comes to toddlers, the risk is even greater.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate
I’ve written over 30 articles on SLS and SLES. To say there is ‘conflicting information’ available on how SLS and SLES can impact our health would be a massive understatement.
The truth is there are many articles available online that claim SLS and SLES to be extremely dangerous, and there are just as many that debunk this completely. The fact is, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. SLS and SLES don’t deserve some of the hysteria they receive but they are also far from considered a safe additive.
SLS and SLES have been linked to skin and gum irritation, irritation of the eyes in toddlers and developmental problems in children.
For more information please refer to the following studies:
SLS and SLES are foaming agents or surfactants and are present in almost all commercially produced toothpaste. They are equally effective in products such as toothpaste as they are in engine degreaser.
When dissolved SLS and SLES release the surface tension of liquids, creating bubbles which we know as foam and relate with cleaning products.
The International Journal of Toxicology recommends concentration levels should not exceed 1% in products that are used regularly e.g. toothpaste. Yet, it’s fairly common to see them at levels above 20%.
There are also claims that the manufacturing process involved in producing SLS can produce Dioxane which is a known carcinogen. But don’t just take my word for it, award winning scientist Dr. David Suzuki also has very real concerns about SLS.
Artificial colors are often been added to toothpaste to make them more appealing to children. I’ve already written fairly extensively about the dangers of artificially produced colors here and I would recommend that article for a more detailed explanation.
In short, however, artificial colors have been linked to a wide range of health issues such as:
- Hypersensitivity and behavioral disorders in children
- Adrenal tumors in lab animals
- Increased bladder and testicular tumors in mice
- Increased risk of thyroid cancer
Toddlers and infants are far more vulnerable to fluoride toxicity than adults and due to their age are far less equipped to excrete Fluoride through their kidneys, in fact, they are less than half as efficient at excreting Fluoride as adults.
Much like SLS and SLES, Fluoride toxicity is a highly controversial topic and there are a number of compelling arguments for and against its use in toothpaste and drinking water.
Aside from Fluoride’s debated teeth strengthening qualities, there are valid concerns over the impact it has on our bodies when consumed or absorbed including:
- Studies have previously linked fluoride exposure to neurological impairment in toddlers
- Fluoride is considered by many an Endocrine disruptor, meaning it can impact upon the development of your brain, bones, thyroid and Pineal gland.
A number of scientific studies have shown a link between Fluoride exposure and the lowering of IQ suggesting brain function may be affected due to exposure to Fluoride.
- High Fluoride levels in drinking water have been linked to kidney disease.
Triclosan is a registered pesticide.
In 2016 a number of products containing Triclosan, including liquid hand soaps and body washes were no longer permitted to be marketed to the general public as a result of a number of studies that linked Triclosan to health concerns such as:
- Alteration of hormone regulation
- Damage to the immune system
- Development of antibiotic resistant germs.
If you are asking yourself how Triclosan could possibly be banned in the above-listed products and not toothpaste, you are not alone.
It is comforting to know however that Triclosan is only included in one particular brand of toothpaste in 2017 (Colgate Total). Sadly, however, it is one of the most popular dental hygiene products available today.
Other notable mentions
While I have covered what I consider to be the most concerning additives commonly found in toothpaste above, there are a number of other additives worth taking notice of. These include:
DEA has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”
Microbeads are essentially very small plastic particles (typically under 5mm in length). They are commonly used as an exfoliant in toothpaste. There is high confidence that the use of microbeads will be banned in 2017 and as a result, will no longer pose a threat.
The primary concern in regard to Microbeads is the fact that they often end up in our oceans as they do not break down easily, resulting in plastic particle water pollution. The beads also have the capacity to absorb pollutants and to make matters worse many marine animals mistake microbeads for food creating a ripple effect of toxicity in the marine food chain.
I have written about Glycerin in a previous article. While not a major health risk in itself, Glycerin isn’t an ideal ingredient in toothpaste because it literally coats the teeth, preventing important minerals to be absorbed and maintain teeth health. It’s commonly used to provide the ‘smooth’ feel consumers appreciate in toothpaste.
Propylene Glycol is another surfactant similar to SLS and SLES. The problem with Propylene Glycol is that there is insufficient research into its potential for causing harm. It is widely considered a skin irritant which would likely also make it problematic for your organs when consumed or ingested.
The Best Toothpaste for Toddlers, the Top 5
It should come as no surprise that the toothpaste we recommend for toddlers do not contain any of the above-listed additives, SLS and SLES, Artificial colors, Fluoride or Triclosan.
The list of toothpaste suitable for toddlers below also take into account flavor, after all, it’s one thing to source a toothpaste that is safe to use for toddlers it’s an entirely different matter in getting them to accept the toothpaste which will make maintaining dental hygiene a much simpler proposition.
- Hello Oral Care Kids Fluoride Free Toothpaste
- Orajel Toddler Training Toothpaste Fruity Fun Flavor
- Jack N’ Jill Natural Toothpaste
- Tom’s of Maine Toddlers Fluoride-Free Natural Toothpaste
- Babyganics Fluoride Free Toothpaste
Hello Oral Care Kids Fluoride Free Toothpaste
Hello Oral Care contains no artificial colors, flavors, SLS or SLES, Triclosan, Microbeads, Parabens or Gluten and just to really win us over have never tested their products on animals.
Customers claim their toddlers genuinely love the taste and smell.
Hello are on a mission, to create the most natural, effective, delicious, and delightful personal care products in the world, and judging by how consumers are taking to their products it seems it’s only a matter of time before this becomes a reality.
I hope the information presented above gives you sufficient reason to stop and strongly consider your next toothpaste purchase for your toddler. While much of the evidence presented is far from clear cut and further studies are needed, there really is little doubt that most popular toothpaste brands are using ingredients that at best could be described as ‘concerning’. My question to you is, why take the risk, with the most precious members of your family.
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