For children, toothpaste may seem like a refreshing snack to start or end their day.

As pediatric dentists, we agree with your little ones, the fact that you can’t eat toothpaste is pretty confusing. Almost everything we’ve given children to put in their mouth is edible. The two most common deviations from that normal would be bubblegum and toothpaste.

Kids already love sweet, tasty things and it can be hard to remember toothpaste isn’t a treat.

Here’s The Thing…

Technically speaking, small quantities of toothpaste are okay to swallow. Kids toothpaste usually comes in flavors like bubblegum, tutti frutti, and other delicious candy. Considering the only other thing that taste like candy is candy, it can be tempting to devour candy-flavored toothpaste in the same way.

It’s extremely important to teach your child eating toothpaste is never safe or a good activity to pursue. Eating large amounts of toothpaste can cause stomach issues and intestinal blockage. Why? Fluoride. Fluoride is good for bodies but only in very small amounts, and our teeth need a tiny bit every day. That’s why it’s safe to swallow your mildly infused, toothpaste flavored saliva but not globs of toothpaste itself.

It’s good to note that this is one of the reasons that children’s toothpastes are often made with a lower concentration of fluoride. However, if you or a little one in your care has swallowed a large amount of toothpaste, please call the poison control center immediately — (800) 222-1222.

How You Can….

How can you make sure your kid isn’t sucking down tubes of toothpaste every night instead of brushing their teeth? Don’t worry, we have some tried and true methods that will help keep your tiny tooth grower from accidentally giving themselves fluoride poisoning.

  • Apply the dollop yourself – help teach your peanut the right amount of toothpaste they should be using. Regardless of how tasty it is, the correct amount of toothpaste for an adult mouth is a pea-sized drop in the center of the brush. You could keep that same amount for your child, or even do half of a pea-sized drop for humans who are half your size.
  • Brush alongside them – lead by example! Teach your cutie the best toothbrush practices by letting them watch you. Make sure you both spit out your toothpaste and then you should both swish your mouth out with clean water and spit out the remaining toothpaste residue. That small amount of toothpaste residue wouldn’t necessarily harm you, but swishing and spitting with clean water reinforces the idea that toothpaste isn’t healthy and shouldn’t be eaten or left in your mouth.
  • Switch the paste – like putting something sour on a tot’s thumb to help them stop sucking on it, switch to a stronger flavored, less sweet toothpaste. A “grosser” tasting toothpaste will make the idea of snacking on it much less appealing.
  • Help make it fun – especially when your sweet pea is at a sleepover or at summer camp, you want to make sure they know they still have to brush their teeth and spit out the toothpaste. By making fun games, or friendly bets, it encourages your child to continue the habit even when they’re away from their normal bathroom. An adult patient recently remembered fond memories of having “spitting competitions” with summer camp friends. As children, during their morning routine at summer camp in the woods, they would pick a spot, brush their teeth together, and then see how far they could spit their toothbrush or how high up on a tree they could spit their toothpaste — winner didn’t have to help wash breakfast dishes. While it’s a bit of a gross story, we think it’s a great idea!

Regardless of what you decide to do, it’s important to be sure your child isn’t eating their toothpaste, accidentally or on purpose. Do you have other tips on teaching about toothpaste? Let us know! Here at Chess & Taub, we like to make sure the whole family is practicing the best oral hygiene possible. Even if you and your family religiously brush your teeth twice a day, you should still come in for a dental cleaning and check up every six months! Contact us today to schedule an appointment.