Maria Sanchez knew drastic measures were in order during a recent pre-Halloween party she attended with her son, three-year-old Ricky. Little Ricky, adorably dresssed as Thomas the Train, was asked to remove his novelty gag teeth before bobbing for apples. If only it had been that easy.
“My boy’s teeth had gotten so bad, people actually thought they were joke teeth,” said a visibly upset Sanchez. “It broke my heart, but in a way it was a blessing…a wake-up call of sorts. We were at the dentist the very next morning.”
As it turned out, the culprit was right in front of them the whole time: little Ricky’s gooey, strawberry-flavored Colgate toothpaste.
“If I had a nickel for every kid who ended up in my chair as a result of brushing with this candy toothpaste, I’d be even richer than I already am,” said Dr. Barry Portnoy of the Columbia Dentistry Group. “How Colgate gets away with this I’ll never understand, though I will say, they’re hardly the only brand to have stooped so low. Crest makes a banana-split toothpaste, Aquafresh has a mint hot-fudge-sundae flavor, and Reddi wip has broken into the toothpaste market with a vanilla whipped-cream toothpaste.”
The proliferation of such sugary, kid-friendly toothpastes calls into question what many say is the American Dental Association’s flimsy enforcement of what are – or rather, what are not – acceptable sugar levels. Surely there are guidelines to which these marketers must adhere – especially given that they are targeting children.
“You’d think that would be the case,” said Portnoy. “But as long as the requisite amount of fluoride is present, it’s a free-for-all in terms of sugar levels, dyes, dangerous chemicals, mercury, and so on.”
Repeated calls to Colgate-Palmolive’s headquarters in Morristown, N.J., were not returned, but a spokesman for Crest had this to say about the current trend in kids’ toothpaste: “These little teeth are going to fall out no matter what children brush with. It’s really just a matter of getting the children in the habit of brushing twice a day. Once their adult teeth pop in, we recommend they graduate to a less delicious toothpaste.”
Despite Dr. Portnoy’s strenuous objections, Sanchez says she plans to allow her son to continue with his current, destructive strawberry-flavored Colgate toothpaste.
“The way I see it, the sooner those little things fall out of his mouth, the better,” said Sanchez. “It’s not about preserving his teeth at this point; it’s about doing everything in our power to make room for the next ones – and if that means brushing them into submission, then that’s what we’ll do.”