This post is in response to questions from so many of you asking what kind of toothpaste we use in our home! Please note: I have never claimed to be a toothpaste expert, (just a lead expert!) & this post discusses my personal choices for my family, based on daily considerations I have as a result of the unique needs of my own children. I completely understand if you make other choices for your children, although I still strongly discourage any use of any personal care product that is known to contain unsafe levels of lead (as Earthpaste and other clay-based toothpastes do.)
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Since we have special needs kids (as a result of them being lead poisoned as babies) with various issues ranging from geographic tongue (with extreme sensitivity to nearly any and all flavors and especially to anything spicy) to general sensory processing disorder (which can included gagging with toothbrushing – among other “fun” reactions), for the first years of their lives we brushed only with water. Even though my older boys have graduated to toothpaste, we still use very little toothpaste with each brushing- and typically a single tube of toothpaste will last us a year (or sometimes two!)
As the kids have grown older (they are now 8, 12, and 14 – and our oldest one is almost 21!) we’ve worked on introducing toothpaste into their routines – starting with fruit flavored pastes and eventually graduating to mint and cloves. Our eight year old is still not ready for any kind of toothpaste, but our 12 year old unexpectedly liked the cloves flavor when he first tried it!
For our older boys, as a rule we stick with toothpastes that:
- are Fluoride Free
- are All Natural
- are Not Clay-Based (Clay-based toothpastes can have high levels of lead.)
- do not have a “Prop 65” warning on the packaging! (With toothpaste, a prop-65 warning usually means the product has tested positive for lead.)
Our oldest (who was not lead poisoned as a baby, and was not home when his little brothers were poisoned because he was away at camp) has perfect teeth and has had almost no cavities his entire life (I think maybe he had one significant one when he was about 5 years old.)
Our 2nd son was just about 3 years old when he was poisoned. His teeth are a mess and he has had a lot of cavities that are not related to his dental hygiene (his hygiene is exceptionally good – thank you very much OCD!) The enamel between his front teeth is unusually soft, an issue caused by the fact that his at-the-time-of-his-poisoning not-yet-erupted adult teeth likely absorbed lead in the place of calcium as they were developing in his skull (because lead bio-mimics calcium in the body and it is opportunistically absorbed if it is present when calcium rich structures are developing in a child).
Our third son (Avi) who was most significantly lead poisoned as a very small baby (he was just 7 months old when he was poisoned) has not had an unusual amount of cavities (given his age at the time of his poisoning – unfortunately his rapidly developing 7-month old brain (and not his teeth) absorbed more of the lead circulating in his blood.)
Our biggest challenge with both Avi and his little brother has been the mechanics of tooth brushing; actually needing to still physically brush their teeth for them (and floss their teeth for them) each and every night – even though they are 8 and 12 years old (ages by which most parents are no longer brushing their kids’ teeth!). It’s exhausting and causes nightly struggles, however – frankly we’re just happy we’re not wiping our 12 year old’s bum anymore (and we hope to be done wiping our 8 year old’s bum soon too!) [That’s the biggest challenge with special needs kids – you have to do “normal” parenting things for them a lot longer than with neuro-typical kids!]
Please note: As a family we don’t focus so much on toothpaste brands but instead focus on limiting sugar (we generally don’t have sugar in our home and also limit other naturally sugary or starchy foods that promote tooth decay) and we focus on the best “implements” of dental care. We use a Sonicare electric toothbrush system (recommended by our dentist) and the kids and my husband also a gum irrigation system by WaterPik.