Yvonne has been an online writer for over eight years. Her articles focus on everything from recipes to children's health.
What's the Best Natural Children's Toothpaste?
In this article, I review several popular brands of toothpaste aimed at children and marketed as natural. I also take a closer look at what goes into some "natural" toothpaste.
It might surprise you to know that regulations for natural and organic toiletries may be considerably laxer than for those on food. And of course, not everything that is "natural" is safe: deadly nightshade berries are a good example!
Nightshade berries aside, what one person considers safe, someone else might not, so it pays to become informed and then make your own decisions.
Why Buy a Special Toothpaste for Kids?
Firstly, many little kids (and some not-so-little) don't like the taste of ordinary toothpaste. If they don't like the taste or even the smell, you'll be lucky to get the toothpaste near their mouths.
Secondly, most children's toothpaste is formulated differently to take account of a particular trait of small children: they tend to swallow more toothpaste. If they like the taste they will suck it off the brush, but even if they don't like it, children aged two or under are rarely able to spit toothpaste out, so they will swallow substantial amounts.
Why do many children's toothpastes lack fluoride?
Swallowing toothpaste can have adverse health effects, one being that excess fluoride can cause damage to the teeth! Because of this, even dental associations now recommend that non-fluoride toothpaste is best for toddlers.
Whether or not to buy a toothpaste containing fluoride for older children is a matter for individual parents to decide. Of the toothpastes reviewed here, only one contains fluoride.
Which Toothpaste Ingredients Are Questionable?
Besides fluoride, there are many other toothpaste ingredients you may not want your child to swallow, so it pays to read labels.
For instance, on Amazon, there is a toddler's toothpaste that contains the ingredient FD&C Blue No. 1. This is what the FDA has to say about FD&C Blue No. 1: "FDA alerted healthcare professionals of several reports of toxicity, including death, associated with the use of FD&C Blue No. 1 (Blue 1) in enteral feeding solutions." Enteral feeding is tube feeding (through the nose down to the stomach), so your toddler will not be administered toothpaste or FD&C Blue No. 1 in this way. But, given its toxicity, would you even want it in your little one's mouth?
Or what about Poloxamer 407, which some scientists now believe can cause raised cholesterol? For you and me, maybe this doesn't matter much in a toothpaste, because we spit most of it out, but for a toddler it might be problematic.
Ingredients in Natural Toothpastes
Although no two of the toothpastes listed below contain the exact same ingredients, there are some ingredients that they all share. Let's take a look at the most common.
This is just chalk! In toothpaste, dental-grade chalk is used.
Glycerin or Glycerol
Glycerin (or glycerine) is a thick colorless liquid with a sweet taste. Glycerol is a thick sweet liquid. Sound the same? That's because, without getting too technical, they are pretty much the same. Glycerin keeps moisture levels stable and also acts as a preservative. It is derived from fat and can be made from animal or vegetable fats. In almost all natural toothpaste, it will come from vegetable fats, although not all list the source. If you are a strict vegetarian or vegan, you may want to check with the manufacturer.
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This is just water!
Some Controversial Ingredients in Natural Toothpastes
The ingredients below all appear in at least one of the toothpastes reviewed and have all created some argument amongst experts. This doesn't mean that they are definitely unsafe, but it is wise to treat them with caution. The ingredients below are not listed in any particular order regarding safety.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
This is a foaming agent commonly used in toiletries. It makes the toothpaste spread more easily through the mouth to remove food.
The main concern with sodium lauryl sulfate is that in some people it causes irritation, particularly around the eyes. Sometimes sodium lauryl sulfate is made from petroleum, but it can also come from plant sources: coconut oil or palm kernel oil. The version used in natural toothpaste is made from plant sources. (Palm kernel oil has its own issues since some rainforest destruction is due to felling trees to plant palms.)
With regard to the safety of plant-based sodium lauryl sulfate, a good place to look is at the American website EWG (Environmental Working Group). This group evaluates the safety of cosmetics and toiletries and is much more rigorous in its testing than the FDA. They class sodium lauryl sulfate as low concern, with moderate concern regarding toxicity in non-reproductive organs. (Overall, it receives a rating of 1–2, which is low concern.)
My view is that for very young children, it would probably be safest to avoid sodium lauryl sulfate, and for older children who can spit the toothpaste out, it is probably okay—so long as you can be sure it is plant-based rather than petroleum-based. But if your child has allergies, it may be best avoided.
Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate
This ingredient sounds similar to sodium lauryl sulfate and is used for the same purpose. It is made from caffeine or creatine. Some manufacturers claim it is a safer alternative, but EWG rates it at 3, which is of moderate concern. It is approved by the FDA under the following conditions: for use in rinse-off products such as shampoo or in concentrations of less than 5% in products that are left on. This also leads me to think that of the two, sodium lauryl sulfate is the safer option.
This is a preservative that some companies producing natural toiletries use instead of parabens, but other sources consider it no safer. The EU has classed it as safe to 0.5%, and it is commonly used in considerably smaller quantities. Nevertheless, under certain conditions, it can release formaldehyde and therefore could be potentially carcinogenic. EWG includes it in a list of preservatives of particular concern, but somewhat confusingly, when listing it individually the site classes it as "medium concern."
This is a sugar alcohol and is often used instead of sugar. Some people say it is safe, because it is not fully absorbed by the body. However, there is a long list of Sorbitol's possible side effects, from diarrhea and bloating to dizziness and breathing problems. The FDA does not recommend this sweetener for children under the age of three, yet, it appears in two of these toothpastes.
Xylitol is not related to sorbitol and is usually considered to be more natural. Dentists like it because it is not harmful to teeth. But it can also cause stomach pains and diarrhea in relatively small amounts. It's unlikely your child would consume those amounts by swallowing toothpaste during brushing, but like sorbitol, it's probably best avoided.
Silica is basically ground quartz, which is a hard rock. For this reason, some people are concerned that it could damage tooth enamel. Others say that because it is used in very small quantities is it safe and that a hard toothbrush would cause more damage. It is not otherwise harmful to the body. All but one of the brands reviewed here contain silica.
This ingredient is derived from red seaweed and acts as a thickener in a similar way to gelatine. Recently there has been some controversy about its use in foodstuffs and toiletries, but this appears to be because there are two types of carrageenan. One type, known as degraded carrageenan, can cause inflammation of the colon and cancer in rats.
Studies on humans are so far inconclusive. This type of carrageenan is also known as poligeenan and is not generally used in foodstuffs. Undegraded carrageenan has been used in foods for almost a century. It is also known as chondrus crispus and is considered safe by the FDA.
Interestingly, although the EWG strongly opposes fluoride in tap water, it supports its use in toothpaste. Opinions on fluoride vary widely, and I think it is a matter of choosing what feels right to you. If you live in an area where water is fluorinated, or your children are very young, it's probably best to avoid fluoride in toothpaste.
This is an extract of horse chestnut and protects against tooth decay. It is classed as low hazard by EWG, but I have found several references to its toxicity. It certainly would seem wise to avoid it for anyone with an allergy to horse chestnut.
3 Best, Safest All-Natural Toothpastes for Children
All of the toothpastes clean teeth well, so I do not include that in individual reviews. All come in plastic tubes except Weleda, which is in a metal tube. All have screw caps.
The reviews take into account the following:
- appeal to children
- ingredients safety
- cost (I live in the UK, and so the prices for these toothpastes are given in pounds sterling. This allows a comparison to be made but does not guarantee the same price structure elsewhere!)
1. Weleda Children's Tooth Gel
Weleda was founded in Switzerland in the 1920s and follows the principles of anthroposophy, a philosophy developed by Steiner. Put simply, anthroposophy sees the individual—in body, mind, and spirit—as connected with the world.
Weleda makes toiletries and homeopathic remedies. Many of their ingredients are grown in their own biodynamic gardens or are sourced from organic and biodynamic farms. (Biodynamics is a form of organic farming that seeks to approach farming in a holistic way and to create balance.) Weleda is committed to fair trade.
The tooth gel is clear and has a mild minty taste. It is fluoride-free.
- Weleda is a well-established and trustworthy company using biodynamic methods, so we can be confident their ingredients are safe.
- The taste is mild.
- Of the toothpastes reviewed here, this was the second most expensive. However, the cost varies quite a bit from retailer to retailer. (I paid £3.29 from a local health store, and the same toothpaste is available on Amazon's UK site for £2.78.)
- Children who don't like mint may not like this toothpaste. (One of my daughters doesn't.) The taste is mild, however.
- The packaging doesn't look like that of a children's toothpaste, which could put younger kids off. (Then again they may feel more "grown up.")
- It contains esculin, which can be toxic to some people. I emailed Weleda UK regarding the inclusion of esculin in their toothpaste, and a very friendly representative told me that it has been on the market since 1996 and has an "excellent track record." She also emailed the head office in Germany, who several weeks later sent this reply:
"The aesculin we employ in Children’s Tooth Gel is a natural substance isolated from the bark of the horse chestnut tree. We have found that diluted aesculin can have a beneficial effect on tooth formation and conservation, which helps to prevent tooth decay. As a rule, the effect of any given substance on human health depends on its concentration: many are known to be beneficial in low concentrations, even if they might be toxic in high doses. The aesculin we add to Children’s Tooth Gel is employed in an extremely low concentration of approx. 0.001 per cent, and we are therefore confident that it poses no risk to persons using our tooth gel (even if they were to swallow it). The stringent tests that we perform in line with EU regulations have confirmed this."
Glycerin, Water, Silica, Algin [a binder derived from algae], Calendula Extract, Fennel oil, Spearmint leaf oil, Esculin, and Limonene (from essential oils.)
2. Green People Toothpaste
Green People is a UK-based company with an excellent record of environmental care. The company started in 1997 when founder Charlotte Vohtz could not find any skincare products suitable for her young daughter's allergic skin. She made her own creams and from there went on to form Green People. The company use mainly certified organic ingredients.
I like this company a great deal, and use many of their toiletries. I find their products to be effective and gentle, and this toothpaste is no different. I like their transparency and the care the company clearly takes to source safe ingredients. In other words, I trust them.
This toothpaste comes in a cardboard package and the tube is sealed. It is labeled mandarin flavor, and it tastes exactly of that.
- Tastes nice.
- Tested for allergies
- Comes in a sealed tube
- Most ingredients are organic, and it is certified by Ecocert.
- At £3.50 for 50ml, this is the most expensive of the toothpastes reviewed here.
3. AloeDent Children's Strawberry Flavor Toothpaste
Aloe Dent is made by Optima and the company's website claims to make naturally healthy and effective oral care products. They list active ingredients as aloe vera for soothing and tea tree oil to fight bacteria as well as silica to naturally whiten teeth.
- My children love the taste of this toothpaste.
- Although I bought this toothpaste in my local health store and it is listed on Amazon as a natural toothpaste, having researched its ingredients for this article, this toothpaste appears to be a classic example of greenwash: a product masquerading as natural but that is not as safe as it seems at first. It contains sorbitol, xylitol, sodium lauroyl sacrosinate and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, as well as an ingredient listed simply as a number and another as "aroma," with no reference to its origin.
- While one of these ingredients on its own might not be a huge concern for older children such as mine, in my opinion, this toothpaste has too many controversial ingredients. I will not buy it again, and cannot recommend it.
Glycerin, Hydrated Silica, Aqua, Sorbitol, Aloe Vera Leaf Juice, Cellulose Gum, Aroma, Sodium Lauroyl Sacrosinate, Xylitol, Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate, Tea Tree Oil, Green Tea Leaf Extract, C114700, Coenzyme Q10.
4. Phyto Shield Ankle Biters Toothpaste
Phyto Shield is based in New Zealand and uses a special anti-bacterial and cleaning ingredient Totarol™ in their toothpaste. This is an extract of the local totara tree. The packaging is colorful and the little green reptile would appeal to kids.
However, although their packaging boasts "no nasties" and "all natural," a closer inspection of the ingredients list reveals both sorbitol and xylitol. The toothpaste is called "anklebiters" and is clearly aimed at toddlers, yet the FDA recommends children under 2 do not consume sorbitol: Therefore, I cannot recommend this toothpaste for toddlers either.
Two other ingredients concerned me, but after doing some research it seems they are considered safe. (Lauryl Glucoside and Carboxymethyl Cellulose.)
This toothpaste is labeled as being berry flavored. (Wickedly wild berry even!) In fact, the taste of menthol is far stronger and one of my daughters hated it.
- Packaging appeals to kids.
- 75-gram tube cost £3.06 so it is cheaper than most of the other brands.
- Contains sorbitol and xylitol, so not suitable for toddlers
- Taste is not what you'd expect from berry flavor
Calcium Carbonate, Purified Water, Glycerol, Sorbitol, Xylitol, Lauryl Glucoside, Silica, Carboxymethyl Cellulose, Natural Fruit Flavor, and Flavor Modifier, Menthol, Peppermint Oil, Eucalyptus Oil, Totarol™.
5. Tom's of Maine Toothpaste
This toothpaste has several differences from the others. One minor difference is that it doesn't come in a cardboard tube, so it saves on packaging. One major difference is that it now comes in two variations—one with fluoride. If your children are very young, be sure to buy the fluoride-free variation.
Since 2006, Tom's has been partially owned by Colgate-Palmolive which, of course, also makes a different kind of toothpaste. Part of the sale agreement was that Tom's ethical policies would remain as before. I first bought Silly Strawberry before 2006 and didn't notice any changes, except that plastic tubes replaced the previous metal ones.
This toothpaste contains some ingredients that are listed above as potentially controversial, but Tom's has a reputation for transparency and lists the sources of most of their ingredients on the tube and of all on their website.
For instance, although this toothpaste contains carrageenan, this website has a page dedicated to an explanation of the type they use, and it is Chondrus crispus, which means it is safe to use in foodstuffs.
Silly Strawberry has recently been updated. The older version used to contain sodium lauryl sulfate derived from plant sources but now contains Sodium Gluconate instead. EWG rates sodium gluconate at 1, which indicates it is safe.
Tom's do make clear that while this product has been rigorously tested some people can develop allergic reactions to otherwise safe products.
- Although prices vary, Silly Strawberry is generally much cheaper than the other brands reviewed. I found it online at as little as $2.99 or £2.20 for 90 ml.
- Tastes good.
- The version containing fluoride is approved by the American Dental Association.
- Minimal packaging.
- The newer version of this toothpaste has no major cons. Silica might be a minor concern for some buyers, but Tom's policy of listing the origins of their ingredients leads me to feel it will be safe.
Glycerin, Water, Calcium carbonate, Hydrated silica, Fragaria Vesca (Strawberry) Juice And Other Natural Flavors, Carrageenan (Seaweed - Eucheuma sp.), sodium Gluconate (Derived From Coconut And/Or Palm Kernel Oil).
Bonus Option: Jason's Children's Toothpaste
Finally, one toothpaste I did not manage to find for this review is Jason's Children's toothpaste. I have used many other of Jason's toiletries in the past and found them to be good quality. Jason's products are readily available in North America, so might be an alternative if you can't find Green People. However, although Jason's uses many organic ingredients in their products, I suggest you check the ingredients list carefully before you buy!
My Verdict on the Toothpastes
Of the toothpastes featured here the one we used most often when my children were little was Tom's of Maine Silly Strawberry.
We did not use it exclusively, however, largely because of concerns about toothpaste containing fluoride—so we alternated with fluoride-free pastes, and now that my kids are older we often buy adult variations.
My recommendation for safest toothpaste is Green People. The only drawback with Green People's children's toothpaste is that is not widely available in the USA. Green People's adult toothpastes are available on Amazon.com and are widely available in the UK.
Green People's toothpaste is the only one reviewed here that carries the Ecocert organic badge. This means you can be sure that its ingredients are in fact organic.
I have given Green People's toothpaste 4 stars because it's a great toothpaste, very safe, but a little on the pricey side!
For parents with young children who cannot easily find Green People toothpaste, or who find it too expensive, I would now have no hesitation in recommending Tom's of Maine Silly Strawberry Flouride Free.
Toothpaste Flavor and Ingredient Guide
|Toothpaste||Flavor||Tastes like:||Controversial Ingredients|
Tom's of Maine Silly Strawberry
sodium lauryl sulfate, fluoride, silica, carageenan
Weleda Children's Tooth Gel
Phyto Shield Ankle Biters Toothpaste
Wickedly Wild Berry
Slight berry flavor, but stronger methol flavor.
sorbitol, xylitol, silica
Aloe Dent Children's Toothpaste
Strawberry mixed with tea tree
sorbitol, xylitol, sodium lauroyl sacrosinate, sodium hydroxymethylglycinatesilica, silica
Green People Children's Mandarin Toothpaste
Mandarin, Orange and Myrrh
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Is it okay for a baby to swallow aloe vera in toothpaste?
Answer: I think it's best to avoid babies swallowing any toothpaste, but I also think it's ok not to worry if this happens once or twice.
Minerva on April 03, 2019:
Thank you much for your information.
Tricia Knott on January 29, 2019:
I signed up just to thank you so much for your article. My daughter uses the Weleda tooth gel, and as with all of their products I love it. Looking for alternatives as that one isn't always readily available, though. Your article gave great recommendations and I learned a great deal about the ingredients in other toothpastes. Thanks again
Kelly on February 12, 2018:
Do you know where they're offering the SLS-Free Silly Strawberry? It looks like their site still lists it :/
zac hooks/male on January 11, 2018:
this is great me and my husband used it on our son and it worked perfectly thank you
Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 03, 2012:
Susan, glad you enjoyed it and thanks for passing it to the right people!
Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on December 02, 2012:
What a great review and I'll be passing it along to people I know with children.
Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 02, 2012:
Hi Glimmer Twin Fan, glad you found it useful and thanks very much for your comment and for sharing.
Claudia Mitchell on December 02, 2012:
What an extremely useful hub here Melovy! Interesting to see all of the ingredients that are in the different toothpastes. Voted up useful and shared!
Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on November 30, 2012:
I know what you mean Ardie. I didn't know about the stuff in toothpaste when my kids were very little - but I also didn't realise you were supposed to brush baby's teeth as soon as the first one appeared so didn't start straight away. (It didn't harm my kids' teeth because neither of them has had a cavity.) We can only do the best we can with whatever knowledge we had at the time.
Thanks very much for your comment and the thumbs up.
Sondra from Neverland on November 29, 2012:
I wish I would've known about natural toothpaste when my kids were small still. I always worried about them sucking the toothpaste off the brush and then NOT spitting it out. 3 thumbs up for your review (yes three - two weren't enough!)
Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on November 29, 2012:
ptosis, isn't it interesting how what one person likes another doesn't? Thanks for stopping by and for your comment.
Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on November 29, 2012:
RealHousewife, I can believe that about cleaning silver. When I was at Art School (many years ago) we made a sculpture out of perspex and the tutor told us to use toothpaste to polish it. He said not to use one brand (I think it was Colgate SR) because it was so abrasive it damaged the perspex. I never used it on my teeth after that.
I think the worst thing about toxic ingredients in toothpaste is that you are putting them in your mouth so we probably all swallow a little. We've been using the more natural ones for years, but I was still surprised at some of the ingredients in even them.
Thanks for your comment.
ptosis from Arizona on November 28, 2012:
Tom's toothpaste tastes AWFUL. My mom keeps giving the stuff to me and I re-gift it to somebody else who never uses it either!
Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on November 28, 2012:
I have always wondered about this. I heard a long time ago that toothpaste could be really bad or off brands can contain toxic stuff! I learned a trick - you can use toothpaste to clean silver! I tried it and it really works...isn't that kind of freaky?
I think I'll see if I can find some of the Natural stuff!