TOOTHPASTE manufacturers are cashing in on the perennial anxiety of parents about instilling good teeth-cleaning habits in their offspring. To lure young customers, they sell toothpastes in novel flavours and colourful packaging emblazoned with c artoon characters. We asked a panel of children to try them out and tell us which had the best taste and texture, and which one's looks appealed most.
Children's toothpastes - which are usually more expensive than ordinary ones - are not simply a marketing ploy, however. Contrary to what you might expect, they generally contain less fluoride than adult versions. There is good reason for this. If young
children have too much fluoride, there is a risk that their permanent teeth may emerge with a chalky or brown stain. About 200 parents across Britain are trying to sue toothpaste manufacturers for damages, arguing that tubes don't carry proper warnings. So although fruity flavours may encourage children to look forward to teeth-cleaning, letting them swallow vast quantities of the stuff is not a good idea.
THE PANEL Cathryn Rebak (three); William Beaumont (four) and Matthew Beaumont (seven); Gabriel Morrison (five) and Aphra Morrison (ten); Ben and Joe Gess (both aged three).
THE TEST Either a parent or an older child tried out the toothpastes with each young panellist, giving marks for taste, texture, appearance and packaging.
*SAINSBURY'S CHILDREN'S DENTAL GEL 79p for 50ml A strawberry-flavoured gel in a pink, orange and blue patterned package and tube, this didn't hit quite the right note with children. "Neither of my two thought much of the tube design," said Sarah Beaumont. "Matt loved the juicy, fruity flavour but William thought it was just OK." Ann Rebak said her daughter Cathryn, a mint fan, "wasn't too keen on the flavour" - but praised the tube as easy to open and close.
*SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 99p for 50ml Some kids liked it, others didn't. "William loved Sonic on the tube," said his mother, "and the blue gel." But this toothpaste was one of the least popular as far as the Gess twins were concerned. "They didn't like the packaging," said their mother, Jackie Gess, "complained that the taste was too strong - and spat it out. Yuk!"
**COLGATE 0-6 GEL 95p for 50ml The cartoon on the packaging, showing a little tooth-man brushing his teeth, appealed to the panel. So did the fact that the toothpaste comes out of the tube in the shape of a star. "Joe liked the star shape," said Jackie Gess, "which prompted a rendition of `Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star'." Cathryn Rebak's mother liked this: "The mint taste is mild and doesn't burn Cathryn's tongue like the adult ones do," she said.
****TESCO BLACKCURRANT FLAVOUR TOOTHPASTE 89p for 75ml This dark purple gel in a squidgy transparent tube was the overall favourite. It won approval from our panel both for its taste and its unconventional looks - more like a lurid hair gel than a toothpaste. "Matthew and William loved the tube," said Sarah
Beaumont, "because it Iooked so different from the others. …