Toothpaste is a paste or gel dentifrice used to clean and maintain the aesthetics and health of teeth. Toothpaste is used to promote oral hygiene by removing dental plaque and food from the teeth. Most toothpastes contain fluoride to help protect teeth from decay. While toothpaste plays an important role in oral hygiene, it is not meant to be eaten or swallowed. Despite this, some people do end up ingesting small amounts of toothpaste. This article will explore how much toothpaste can be safely consumed.
Is it safe to eat toothpaste?
No, toothpaste should not be eaten or swallowed. Most toothpastes contain ingredients that are meant to interact with the surfaces of teeth and should not be ingested. The most notable ingredient in toothpaste is fluoride. Fluoride is added to toothpaste to help strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities. However, consuming too much fluoride can lead to fluorosis, which causes white specks on teeth. Other common toothpaste ingredients like detergents, antibacterials, and abrasives are also not meant to be swallowed. Detergents such as sodium lauryl sulfate produce foam and can irritate the digestive tract if swallowed. While toothpaste tubes often say “keep out of reach of children under 6 years of age”, this warning refers to the risk of fluorosis in young children who swallow toothpaste, not the toxicity of swallowing toothpaste itself. Still, toothpaste is not food and should never be swallowed intentionally.
How much fluoride is in toothpaste?
The amount of fluoride in toothpaste can vary by brand and type. Here are some general fluoride concentrations found in toothpastes:
|Type of Toothpaste||Fluoride Concentration|
|Children’s toothpaste||500-550 ppm fluoride|
|Regular toothpaste||1000-1500 ppm fluoride|
|Prescription strength toothpaste||5000 ppm fluoride|
Ppm stands for parts per million. So children’s toothpaste contains 500-550 parts of fluoride per million parts of toothpaste. As you can see, the fluoride content increases for adult and prescription strength toothpaste. The maximum amount of fluoride allowed in over-the-counter toothpaste is 1500 ppm. Prescription strength toothpaste at 5000 ppm is only recommended for use in patients at high risk of tooth decay.
How much fluoride is safe to swallow?
The recommended maximum daily fluoride intake depends on a person’s age and weight:
|Age||Maximum Fluoride Intake|
|0-6 months||0.01 mg/day|
|7-12 months||0.5 mg/day|
|1-3 years||0.7 mg/day|
|4-8 years||1.0 mg/day|
|9-13 years||2.0 mg/day|
|14-18 years||3.0 mg/day|
|Adults 19+ years||10.0 mg/day|
These values represent the maximum recommended daily fluoride intake from all sources, not just toothpaste. Consuming more than this amount over long periods increases the risk of fluorosis. Acute toxic symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can occur starting at 5 mg/kg of body weight.
So in terms of toothpaste consumption, the main concern is the fluoride content. One would need to consume a lot of toothpaste to reach the maximum recommended daily allowance. Fortunately, the unpleasant taste and foaming action of toothpaste deter people from swallowing more than a small pea-sized amount.
How much toothpaste do people normally use?
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste for children under 3 years and a smear the size of a grain of rice for those younger than 2. For anyone over 3 years old, a pea-sized amount is recommended.
This pea-sized dollop is about 0.25-0.3 grams of toothpaste. The typical weight of toothpaste on a toothbrush is around 0.3-0.5 grams. Using more toothpaste than this is not advisable as it does not improve cleaning and increases the chances of swallowing excess paste.
So most people use around 0.3 grams of toothpaste per brushing. With the average person brushing 1-2 times per day, that’s 0.3-0.6 grams of toothpaste consumed daily.
How much toothpaste would someone have to eat to reach toxic levels?
Let’s consider a scenario with an adult toothpaste containing the maximum over-the-counter fluoride concentration of 1500 ppm fluoride.
For a lethal dose of fluoride, we use the toxic threshold of 5 mg of fluoride per kg of body weight. Let’s say for a 70 kg (154 lb) adult.
5 mg/kg x 70 kg = 350 mg of fluoride for a toxic dose
Now we calculate how much 1500 ppm fluoride toothpaste would need to be consumed:
– 1500 ppm means 1500 mg fluoride per 1 kg of toothpaste
– 350 mg of fluoride is needed
– So 350/1500 = 0.23 kg of toothpaste contains the 350 mg toxic fluoride dose
0.23 kg equals 230 grams of toothpaste.
This means an adult would need to eat over 230 grams of typical fluoride toothpaste to reach acutely toxic levels. That’s over 100 pea-sized amounts of toothpaste and equates to eating several tubes worth!
While toothpaste should never be eaten intentionally, this shows that a small accidental swallow of a pea-sized amount is not toxic. Consuming a whole tube would be needed to reach acute toxicity. However, chronically swallowing extra toothpaste over time could lead to excess fluoride accumulation and increase the risk of fluorosis over the long-term.
Can you die from eating toothpaste?
In theory, someone could die from eating too much toothpaste if they consumed enough to reach acute fluoride poisoning levels. However, the large amount needed to reach toxic concentrations makes death from eating toothpaste extremely unlikely.
Some cases of death attributed to toothpaste consumption have been documented in media reports, but these instances were due to other factors:
– In 2019, a 5-year-old girl in the Philippines died after allegedly being forced to eat an entire tube of toothpaste as punishment. However, the autopsy found that she had died of pneumonia complications, not toothpaste poisoning.
– In 2014, a Nigerian man was reported to have died after eating 5 tubes of toothpaste because he was denied food. But it’s unlikely that much toothpaste was truly ingested, and starvation along with underlying health conditions were probably responsible.
Realistically, the unpleasant taste and foaming action of toothpaste, along with vomiting reflexes, would deter anyone from voluntarily eating multiple tubes of toothpaste. Considering the effort needed to consume a potentially lethal fluoride dose, death solely from eating toothpaste seems improbable.
However, eating toothpaste, especially in large amounts, is still extremely dangerous and can cause serious health effects – even if not necessarily death directly. These include significant gastrointestinal and nerve problems that require prompt medical treatment. So while overdose death may be unlikely, the hazards of toothpaste ingestion are still very real.
What happens if you eat toothpaste?
Here are the general effects that can occur if a significant amount of toothpaste is swallowed:
– Nausea and vomiting – Toothpaste tastes unpleasant and contains detergents that can induce a vomiting reflex when large amounts are swallowed.
– Abdominal pain and diarrhea – Toothpaste can irritate the digestive tract, causing cramping, pain, and diarrhea.
– Foaming/frothing from the mouth – Sodium lauryl sulfate in toothpaste causes foaming and frothy secretions to form in the mouth.
– Tremors, convulsions – High fluoride concentrations interfere with nerve signals and can cause muscle spasms and seizures.
– Asphyxiation – Excessive vomiting and foaming can obstruct breathing passages.
– Unconsciousness – At high doses, nerve and brain function are impaired.
– Death (in rare cases) – Typically only after consuming extremely large amounts and developing severe systemic toxicity.
The extent of symptoms depends on the amount consumed and individual factors like age, weight, and health condition. Small ingestions of a pea-sized amount or less are unlikely to cause significant effects beyond temporary stomach upset in some individuals. Getting prompt medical treatment greatly reduces complications and severity. But any intentional or accidental consumption of substantial amounts of toothpaste warrants immediate medical attention.
How is toothpaste poisoning treated?
There is no specific antidote for toothpaste poisoning. Treatment focuses on supporting vital functions and preventing further absorption of toxins. Steps include:
– Inducing vomiting to empty stomach contents if ingestion was recent.
– Activated charcoal to bind to and prevent further toxin absorption.
– Intravenous fluids to maintain hydration.
– Medications to control nausea, cramping, pain.
– Monitoring heart rate, respiration, kidney function.
– Seizure management with anticonvulsants.
– Intubation for respiratory support if airway is compromised.
– Urinary alkalinization to increase fluoride excretion.
– Hemodialysis in severe cases to filter fluoride out of blood.
Most cases of toothpaste ingestion do not progress to life-threatening severity and resolve after limited supportive care. But the possibility of respiratory depression, arrhythmias, and kidney failure require monitoring and being prepared to intervene if complications develop. With proper treatment, most people recover fully even after swallowing substantial amounts of toothpaste.
How to prevent toothpaste poisoning
The best way to avoid toothpaste poisoning is to:
– Use only a small pea-sized amount on a toothbrush.
– Avoid swallowing any toothpaste.
– Rinse mouth thoroughly after brushing and teach children to spit out excess paste rather than swallow.
– Supervise young children closely when brushing teeth.
– Store toothpaste safely out of reach of children and pets.
– Seek medical help immediately if a significant amount is swallowed.
While toothpaste keeps our mouths clean and teeth healthy when used as directed, it can cause serious harm if misused. Understanding proper toothpaste use and storage, and acting quickly in overdose situations can prevent most toothpaste-related problems.
Toothpaste is meant for cleaning teeth and should never be eaten or swallowed. However, consuming a pea-sized amount would not be toxic. It would take eating over 100 pea-sized amounts or several tubes of toothpaste for a lethal overdose to occur. Small ingestions can cause stomach upset but typically resolve without complications. While death is extremely rare, eating more than a small taste of toothpaste can lead to dangerous toxicity requiring prompt medical treatment. Using toothpaste as directed, teaching children proper brushing habits, and keeping paste safely stored can prevent almost all toothpaste poisoning. So how much toothpaste can you eat? The answer is none – toothpaste should only be used for its intended purpose of good oral hygiene.