Can Kids Use Adults’ Toothpaste? When is The Right Time?

Can kids use adult toothpaste? Are there any negatives if we do let them? Are they potentially missing out on the benefits of adult toothpaste by using children’s toothpaste? 

These are all valid questions and as you’re walking through the dental hygiene aisle trying to pick toothpaste, many of them might run through your mind. 

Regardless of your child’s age, it’s important that they have the right toothpaste for them so you need to know when your kid is ready for adult toothpaste and when you should stick with the colorful cartoon character toothpaste.

When to Start Brushing Kids’ Teeth

Start the “brushing” routine with your baby before they even have teeth by wiping down their gums twice per day with a clean, damp cloth. This helps establish an oral hygiene routine and wipes away bacteria from your baby’s gums. 

Once your baby’s first tooth erupts, it’s time to start brushing. Use a soft-bristled infant toothbrush and water, with a dab of kids’ toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice) to brush those new little teeth. But how do you know which toothpaste to use?

What to Consider When Choosing Kids’ Toothpaste

Whether you’re choosing toothpaste for a one-year-old or a six-year-old, it’s important to consider several things. First, babies and toddlers are not able to spit toothpaste out, so you’ll need children’s toothpaste that is safe to swallow.. 

Additionally, some adult toothpastes are focused on sensitivity or whitening, which young children don’t need. From there, consider what will make your child feel interested in or excited about brushing. 

One thing you’ll want to think about from a young age is getting your child excited about brushing their teeth. If they associate it with a sting from the heavy mint flavor, they won’t want to brush and you’ll find yourself struggling with them every morning and evening. 

By choosing a toothpaste with a favorite character on it, they can look forward to using the toothpaste each time they go to brush.

Can Children Use Adult Toothpaste?

So, can children use adult toothpaste and should they? The answer is, it depends. 

There are many kinds of toothpaste out there formulated specifically for adults and they’re designed to be spit out. If your child cannot spit them out, then they shouldn’t be using that toothpaste. 

A toothpaste for a two-year-old is probably not ideal for an adult, while some adult toothpaste may be fine for kids. It can be helpful to understand the differences in the formulas to help you choose the right ones for your family. 

Here are some of the things you’ll want to look at before dabbing up your child’s toothbrush:

Fluoride Content

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that helps strengthen the teeth’s enamel. It can be a powerful tool in fighting tooth decay—which is why it’s added to our drinking water—but must also be used responsibly to avoid side effects from excess consumption. 

When children under the age of eight get too much fluoride, it can cause dental fluorosis, which leads to white spots or streaks on the teeth. In very rare cases, fluoride poisoning can occur when too much fluoride is consumed in a very short period of time. This can cause gastrointestinal distress, irregular heartbeat, and more serious symptoms in severe cases.

Because of this, toothpaste for one-year-olds to three-year-olds usually doesn’t contain fluoride at all, while most kids’ toothpaste is formulated with lower fluoride content. 

Since kids have to learn how to spit properly and younger kids often swallow toothpaste, it’s designed with this in mind. Fluoride content can increase as children become more adept at brushing and spitting thoroughly. 

So, if you’re wondering what toothpaste to use for a 1-year-old, the answer is one with little to no fluoride. It’s unnecessary for them to have it at this age and swallowing too much can lead to problems. Adult teeth have different needs, and using toothpaste without adequate protection or cleaning power could impact your teeth.

Safe to Swallow

The primary concern in terms of swallowing is still the fluoride content, which is why the quantity of fluoride toothpaste used is significant. Until children are three years old, use a dab the size of a grain of rice. 

The amount of toothpaste for three-year-olds to six-year-olds should be about the size of a pea. Once your child can spit their toothpaste out properly, a regular ribbon the length of the toothbrush is advised, though parents should still be present while children brush to ensure that they’re not swallowing their toothpaste. If your child is not yet adept at spitting the toothpaste out, ask your dentist what type of toothpaste is best.


When you’re asking, “Can kids use adult toothpaste?” consider the abrasiveness of the toothpaste. When we think of abrasiveness, we usually only think about the toothbrush but many adult toothpaste formulas are designed for adult diets. 

Think of things like coffee, tea, and smoking – things that young children and toddlers will never do, so they don’t need those components in their toothpaste. Adults seek to whiten their teeth and children don’t experience the same level of staining so they don’t need the high abrasiveness of their toothpaste. 

Some dental trends, like highly abrasive charcoal toothpaste, can also be problematic. Children’s teeth may be more prone to abrasive damage, so abrasive toothpaste could actually harm them.  

Range of Flavors

Most adult toothpaste comes in strong flavors like mint, which children may not like or find to be too strong and “spicy.” Because of this, most children’s toothpaste comes in a variety of sweeter flavors that are more appealing to children, like fruit flavors or bubblegum.

If the flavor, sweetness, or even appearance of the toothpaste makes your child more willing to brush their teeth, that’s the important thing. Monitor children even with kids’ toothpaste to ensure they use the right amount of toothpaste for their age and don’t swallow it.

When Can Kids Use Adult Toothpaste?

Now that you know the difference between adult and kid toothpaste, at what age can kids use adult toothpaste? At around age six, it’s fine for children to begin using adult toothpaste as long as they are able to spit properly. 

You don’t want your child swallowing a bunch of fluoride toothpaste, so if your child isn’t able to spit well yet, or swallows their toothpaste, practice spitting. Then talk to your dentist about whether to continue using a kids’ toothpaste or to go ahead and make the switch.

To learn more about making the right choices for your kids’ dental health and how that can affect their lifelong health, sign up to be notified when Dr. Kami Hoss’ book “If Your Mouth Could Talk” is released. You’ll discover how vital oral health really is to every child and adult. You can also read more about Dr. Kami Hoss by clicking here

It’s important that you choose the right toothpaste for your child to get them off on the right foot. You don’t want to start them on adult toothpaste too young but you also don’t want to wait too long. Follow the tips and tricks outlined in this guide to get your child started off right!

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About the Author

About Dr. Kami Hoss

Dr. Kami Hoss is a nationally sought-after expert with a master’s in craniofacial biology from USC, a doctorate in dental surgery from UCLA, and a post-doctorate in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics. With over 25 years of experience in the dental field, Dr. Hoss is a #1 National Best Seller author frequently featured on NBC, ABC, FOX, NPR, and CBS affiliates, and founder of The Super Dentists, one of the leading multi-specialty dental practices in the country.

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