Even children’s toothpastes that proudly say they’re fluoride free and safe if swallowed can contain harmful ingredients like parabens. Here’s how to find safer toothpaste for your baby.
Pediatric dentists recommend that parents start brushing their baby’s teeth as early as six months old, just to get them into the habit. We started brushing my 11-month-old son’s teeth when he was around nine months, and he LOVES it! He opens his mouth as soon as he sees the brush. I think the bristles feel good on his swollen gums, since he’s been working on teeth numbers nine and 10 for a while now.
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At first we just brushed with water, and a few weeks ago I felt like he was ready for a little dab of toothpaste. The toothpaste went over very well with him, which was a relief. In fact, everything was going great until one evening I idly turned over the tube of Baby Orajel Tooth & Gum Cleanser and scanned the ingredients. What did I see? Parabens. And not just one. There were two different sorts of parabens that I’d been putting into my son’s mouth every single evening for weeks: methylparaben and propylparaben.
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I was furious at Baby Orajel, but more than that, I was furious at myself. The bottle clearly proclaims “Safe if Swallowed” on the front, but I know better than to trust front-of-package labeling. I should have read the ingredients the day that we bought the toothpaste, but every busy parent lets things slip sometimes, and this just slipped.
What’s so bad about parabens?
You’ll find parabens in an array of beauty and personal care products. They work as preservatives, so companies use them to lengthen the shelf life of their products.
Parabens are possible carcinogens. They’re also endocrine disruptors, meaning that they can monkey with our hormones. That’s even more of a concern when you’re exposing your baby’s developing brain and body to these chemicals.
Chemical companies say that parabens are safe at certain levels, and there are limits on the amounts of parabens allowed in products. The big trouble is that since parabens are in so many products, you’re not just getting exposed once or even once a day. Chances are there are many products in your kitchen and bathroom that contain parabens, and those exposures add up.
Are you feeling a little bit helpless? Don’t worry! There are safer brands of baby toothpaste out there, and you can even make your own baby toothpaste at home.
Paraben-Free Baby Toothpaste
Of course, parabens are just one questionable ingredient that you’ll find in baby toothpaste. That Baby Orajel toothpaste I bought my son also contains saccharin, for example, which I would never knowingly feed to my son. When I’m feeling overwhelmed about sussing out safe personal care products like this, I turn to my old friend: the EWG Skin Deep Database. They use a handy traffic light system, so you can see at a glance whether the baby toothpaste you’re considering is safe (green light), so-so (yellow light), or toxic (red light). If something isn’t listed in their database, I just move on and find something that is.
I searched their database and found a couple of baby toothpaste recipes to share with you guys. I hope this list helps you avoid what I went through with my kiddo!
2. Jack n’ Jill Natural Toothpaste – Maybe it’s the cute packaging, but this is the one I want to find for my little guy!
4. Tom’s of Maine Children’s Natural Toothpaste – They have varieties with or without fluoride, so check the label if this is an issue for you.
5. Homemade Toothpaste – This recipe from Inhabitots uses aloe vera gel as the base for a smooth texture that your child is a lot more likely to accept over other more gritty homemade toothpastes.
I’d love to hear from the other parents out there! What toothpaste do you use for your little one? Do you make your own? Let’s share tips in the comments!