Toothpaste: How much is too much for your child?

You may stick to the “pea-sized rule” when it comes to measuring out your own toothpaste, but do you know what guidelines children should use? There’s a good chance your child is using too much. In fact, nearly 40% of children ages 3 to 6 use too much toothpaste, according to a 2019 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Why children need less toothpaste

With fun flavors like bubble gum and watermelon, children may like the taste of fluoride toothpaste and be tempted to swallow it. The more toothpaste they use, the more opportunity there is to swallow it. And if your child swallows too much, he or she could develop fluorosis, a condition that targets developing teeth.

Fluorosis can change the appearance of developing teeth, and in extreme cases, cause lasting structural damage. In its mildest form, it can leave white flecks or streaks on teeth. Severe cases can lead to brown spots and pits in the teeth. If you notice any of these signs, make an appointment with your child’s dentist right away. The dentist may recommend teeth whitening or other cosmetic treatments for mild cases. If the tooth itself is damaged, microabrasion (removing the top level of enamel), bonding, crowns or veneers may be needed.

The right amount of toothpaste

There’s no need to fear the paste! You can help prevent fluorosis by following these simple guidelines from the American Dental Association. 

Hold the toothpaste! Start brushing your baby’s teeth, with just water, as soon as the first tooth appears. (Before teeth appear, you can gently swab gums with a wet cloth.)

Ask your dentist, who can help you decide when your child is ready to start using fluoride toothpaste.

Use only a tiny amount of toothpaste. Aim for an amount the size of a grain of rice.

Your child is safe to use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Just make sure to watch out for swallowing!  

Tips for safe brushing

Supervise your children as they brush until they are at least 8 years old. Check that they are brushing for the full two minutes, using the right amount of toothpaste and not swallowing it. Helpful hint: Make sure they spit before rinsing with water, as water makes it easy to swallow toothpaste.