If you’ve seen any toothpaste commercials or advertisements you’ve undoubtedly witnessed a toothbrush with a large (carefully coiffed) dollop of toothpaste on top. What we need to remember is that these images come from people who are trying to sell toothpaste and a lot of it. In actuality, the amount of toothpaste needed is drastically less than these advertisers would have you believe. In fact, the practice of over applying toothpaste can have harmful effects in children and potentially adults.
A CDC study was recently done with children ages 3-6 that found 40% were using more toothpaste than the recommended amount. The CDC and ADA (American Dental Association) agree that children aged 3-6 should be using only a pea sized amount of toothpaste while children under 3 should be using only a “smear” (the size of a grain of rice) amount of toothpaste. (Some dentists now are even suggesting using just water on your toothbrush)
So what’s the harm? Well in addition to being wasteful and having to purchase more toothpaste there are some health concerns for children using too much toothpaste. A large amount of toothpastes on the market today contain fluoride, which does help strengthen and protect teeth. The problems arise if the child is swallowing too much of the fluoride toothpaste while their teeth are still developing. Doing this can damage the enamel causing dental fluorosis which results in white marks and discoloration in the teeth.
Is there harm in adults using too much toothpaste? While the issues that arise from adults applying too much toothpaste isn’t discussed as much there are definitely still some concerns. Most toothpastes contain an abrasive element to assist in scrubbing teeth clean. When using too much toothpaste there is an excess of abrasives in your mouth which can lead to tooth structure loss and gum recession. The sad irony is that many adults brush especially hard and use a large amount of toothpaste (especially the whitening kind) in an effort to brighten and whiten their smile. It unfortunately has the opposite outcome because scrubbing away the enamel is actually making the dentine level of the tooth closer to the surface which results in a darker overall appearance.
If you suffer from canker sores your overuse of toothpaste may be to blame. The foam producing compound used in many toothpastes (sodium lauryl sulfate) has been linked to causing canker sores. Your best bet would be to find a toothpaste that does not contain this ingredient but in the meantime using less toothpaste would be a good start to reducing canker sores.
The lesson here is less is more for both children and adults. Challenge yourself and your family to use a pea sized (or less) amount of toothpaste. Not only will it improve your overall dental health but it will save you money (check your yearly toothpaste cost with this handy toothpaste calculator )