When I first introduced the toothbrush to Gavin, he loved it. He loved putting it into his mouth and chewing on the bristles. I encouraged him to use his toothbrush while I brushed my teeth at the same time. After I was done, I would help him clean his teeth properly either with the brush or with a wet cloth.
Being so young, I was reluctant to introduce toothpaste to him because most of the children’s toothpastes we have in the market all contain fluoride. Granted it is only 500ppm (half the concentration of adult’s toothpaste), knowing that young children don’t know how to spit out properly and usually end up swallowing everything you put into their mouths, I wasn’t keen to use toothpaste.
Don’t get me wrong – fluoride is great. Fluoride was key in reducing tooth decay in the majority of the population and is the very reason why I remain decay free today. Unfortunately, fluoride in large concentrations can cause fluorosis – white flecks on teeth in its mildest form all the way to severe brown mottling. Since children have a habit of swallowing toothpaste, it is easy for them to exceed the optimal fluoride levels, especially because of their small mass.
It wasn’t long before Gavin caught on to the fact that I would apply toothpaste on my brush but not his. At this age, Gavin likes to mimic our actions and he would follow us as precisely as he is able, so he started insisting I add paste onto his brush, too.
Not wanting to use adult toothpaste, I went hunting around for children’s toothpaste. At Guardian, I noticed that there are four main options when it comes to children’s toothpastes:
- Oral B
All of them contain 500ppm fluoride. All of them come in fruity-flavoured variants (which I completely disagree with because the fruity flavours only serve to encourage a child to eat the toothpaste rather than spit it out). In the end, I chose Kodomo for the following reason:
It contains xylitol.
“Xylitol occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables and is even produced by the human body during normal metabolism. Produced commercially from plants such as birch and other hard wood trees and fibrous vegetation, xylitol has the same sweetness and bulk as sucrose with one-third fewer calories and no unpleasant aftertaste. It quickly dissolves and produces a cooling sensation in the mouth.”
When I was in Uni, we had a lecture about sugar-substitutes, although our examination of such options were not so much about the calories about from a caries (tooth decay) benefits point of view.
Of all the sugar substitutes we covered Xylitol proved to be the most promising because it was not only found to be safe for consumption in large quantities, but it was also discovered to be anti-cariogenic. In other words, it could reverse early formation of tooth decay in teeth.
With such promise, I was surprised that it had not appeared in food as a sugar substitute at the time (this was in 1995, by the way). It was only over the last five years that I have noticed xylitol appearing as a sugar substitute in chewing gum and only recently in toothpastes.
So far, Kodomo is the only toothpaste I have seen containing Xylitol, and that is why I recommend it.
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