Adult products made kid-friendly


February 12, 2010 | Web exclusive Adult products made kid-friendly A few modifications can be all it takes to turn a boring adult product into something fun th

February 12, 2010 |
Web exclusive

Adult products made kid-friendly

A few modifications can be all it takes to turn a boring adult product into something fun that kids actually want to use.

by Renee Knight, Senior Editor

Photo: Image Source/Getty Images

Getting children interested in their oral health isn’t easy, but it’s important. If they develop good oral hygiene habits at a young age, they’re more likely to take those habits with them to adulthood.

But if you want children to get excited about brushing their teeth, you have to make it easy for them and, of course, fun. Manufacturers have to find the right balance between what’s most effective for a child’s oral health needs and what’s most appealing to that child. Philips Sonicare, Oral BioTech and Tom’s of Maine all have found that mix with a power toothbrush, a series of kid-friendly products and natural toothpastes. Each manufacturer took popular adult products and made the necessary modifications to make them work for the youngest consumers. Here’s a breakdown of what they did and why you should be talking to their parents about these kid-friendly options.

The Sonicare for Kids

How it’s different from the adult version. The Sonicare for Kids features two kid-friendly power modes and brush heads: one for 4-to 7-year-olds and another for 7- to 10-year-olds, said Linda Blackiston, RDH,BS, Manager, Mid-Atlantic Professional Education Philips Consumer Lifestyle Makers of the Philips Sonicare. Children have a tendency to bite down when brushing, so designers decided to add a rubber over mold on the back side of the brush. The brush itself features a different design that is ergonomically correct for the child brusher who typically holds a toothbrush near the brush head, yet is designed so a parent can comfortably use the toothbrush as well. There’s also an anti roll feature so that when a child sets the brush down to put the toothpaste on, it won’t roll around.

A different twist on a popular feature. The adult Sonicare signals the user when 30 seconds is up and it’s time to move to the next quadrant. The child’s brush does this, too, but this version uses a musical note to let the brusher know it’s time to move on. At the end, a congratulatory melody let’s the child know he or she did a great job and is finished brushing.

Making it something they can handle. Two-minutes of brushing can seem like an eternity to a young child, so the 4- to 7-year-old setting starts at 1 minute and gradually moves the child to two minutes of brushing in 90 days.

“We took the best features of the adult brush and adapted them to make them fun for children and to enhance compliance,” Blackiston said. “It’s designed to grow with the child.”

What you should tell your patients about it. Blackiston said the key feature is the timer, which makes brushing fun while also ensuring the child is brushing the right amount of time. That itself is a huge step in helping children achieve optimal oral health.

“Children’s oral health is a serious matter,” she said. “To have a product that will help develop those good habits is critical. We want to instill healthy habits in children early.”

The CariFree Xyli-Tots line

“We have an opportunity to start good habits early, and if we get the toothpaste right and if the kids like it, they’ll want to brush.”

-Ellen Saksen, Tom's of Maine

What it includes. The Xyli-Tots line includes Oral Wipes, Tooth Gel, Mouth Spray, Anticavity Rinse and Lollies. All are designed to be age appropriate and feature fun flavors you wouldn’t find in adult products, said Carri Cady, RDH and VP of Sales and Marketing for Oral BioTech’s CariFree. Here’s what they do and why they’re for kids only:

The Oral Wipes. Parents can use the oral wipes, which contain xylitol and a high pH saturation, on infants rather than just wiping their gums with a washcloth and water.

The Mouth Spray. This is designed for toddlers, and can be used throughout the day to neutralize their mouths and deliver xylitol after eating, before naps and at bed time.

The Tooth Gel. This fluoride-free gel has a high pH xylitol saturation. It can be used in place of toothpaste with a brush or can be applied with a finger.

The Anticavity Rinse. Children can use this as soon as they’re old enough to rinse and spit. This rinse combines fluoride with a high xylitol saturation and a high pH.

The Lollies. Instead of sugar, these fun treats feature half a gram of xylitol and come in five flavors.

How it’s different from the adult CariFree line. All of the products in this line are alcohol free, dye free and fluoride free (except for the rinse) so they’re safe for the youngest children, Cady said. They also come in fun, sweet flavors such as watermelon and grape, that may not be as appealing to adults. They also have a higher xylitol concentration.

“We know xylitol is very therapeutic and really sweet, and that’s something you have to take into consideration in terms of flavoring in adult products,” Cady said. “Adults typically don't want a dental product that is overly sweet. Where kids are concerned that’s not a problem. The sweeter the better for most kids. If we can increase the saturation of xylitol and keep the flavoring desirable for kids, that’s a nice benefit.”

What you should tell your patients about it. The fun flavors and fun packaging make children want to use these products. And as an added benefit, the tooth gel doesn’t foam like regular toothpaste. It doesn’t contain the ingredient that causes the foaming because it has no therapeutic benefit, Cady said. If kids don’t associate this foaming with toothpaste from a young age, that’s a good thing. Adults often look to the foam as a sign the toothpaste is doing its job, when in fact it is just an unnecessary additive.

Children’s Natural AntiCavity Toothpaste
How it’s different from the adult version. Again, flavor is key to making kids want to use any toothpaste. Both fluoride and fluoride free versions of this toothpaste come in Silly Strawberry and Outrageous Orange-Mango flavors. And being from Tom’s of Maine, the flavors are natural-no artificial sweeteners, dyes or sparkles-making them even more appealing to mom and dad, said Ellen Saksen, Toothpaste Brand Manager for Tom’s of Maine. No harsh mint flavors or smells are found in these toothpastes, and the fluoride versions carry the ADA Seal of Acceptance.

“Kids mouths are different and their teeth are different so with our kids’ toothpastes we have to make sure the kids really like the flavor,” Saksen said. “They’re not going to brush if they don’t like the taste. Adults can look beyond a mint flavor they don’t like because they know the benefit. Kids have to like it right away.”

But flavor isn’t the only consideration when developing a toothpaste for children. It also has to be gentle enough for a child’s mouth, Saksen said. Finding the right combination of flavoring, fluoride and all the other ingredients is key to ensuring kids get an effective toothpaste they’ll want to use.

An opportunity to do good. Tom’s of Maine looks at children-specific products as a way to get kids excited about keeping their teeth and mouth healthy.

“We have an opportunity to start good habits early, and if we get the toothpaste right and if the kids like it, they’ll want to brush,” Saksen said. “Being a partner to parents and establishing good brushing habits early on is really important to us.”

What you should tell your patients about it. These toothpastes make brushing fun, but parents can go beyond that and make it a family event. Encourage your adult patients to brush with their children, Saksen said. Tell them to make it a fun experience and to encourage their kids to brush on their own. Remind them it’s important to talk with their children about what it means to have fresh breath and a healthy mouth. They have to make it fun, but they also have to make sure they understand the benefits, too.

Remember, they’re not adults
It’s easy to forget that children look at the world differently than adults. But if you want them to develop good oral health habits, this is something you, parents and even manufacturers have to consider when it comes to kid-friendly dental products. They like bright colors, they like fun, fruity flavors and they like cartoon characters. It only makes sense to incorporate these things into kid-focused products.

“Kids like having fun colors and fun characters, things they can identify with,” Cady said. “We need to have products that identify with that fun side of what kids are looking for. Making oral health more fun for kids rather than just a chore or a routine is something we should look to do.”

Renee Knight is a senior editor for DPR. Contact her at


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