Toothpaste commercials often show people squeezing a thick ribbon of toothpaste along the entire length of their toothbrush head. The reality is that this amount of toothpaste is unnecessary for adults, and potentially dangerous for children.
How Much Toothpaste Should Children Use?
Because children's teeth are still developing, they are at risk of developing a condition called dental fluorosis. Dental fluorosis occurs when children accidentally ingest too much fluoride, which is an ingredient found in all ADA-approved toothpastes that helps prevent decay and strengthens teeth. Children can unintentionally swallow fluoride if they use too much toothpaste, causing the fluoride to mix with the other minerals in their developing teeth. When this happens, teeth can become discolored, usually with a subtly striped appearance. In addition to discoloration, dental fluorosis can also change the surface of the teeth, making them less smooth, more difficult to clean, and therefore more vulnerable to decay.
To prevent dental fluorosis, parents should pay attention to the amount of toothpaste their children are using. No toothpaste should be used at all until children are over 18 months of age, and after then parents can start using a rice grain-sized smear of low-fluoride toothpaste. Between the ages of three and six, children can increase the amount of low-fluoride toothpaste they use to a pea-sized amount. After age six or seven, children should be able to switch to a regular toothpaste, but continue using a pea-sized amount.
What About Adults?
Since adult teeth are fully developed, they do not have to worry about getting dental fluorosis from using too much toothpaste. However, the ADA still recommends using only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste rather than the thick ribbons seen in advertising. The main reason is simply that a pea-sized amount is enough to clean your teeth effectively, and any more is wasteful. Contact our office to learn more.