Worried about Kids Eating Toothpaste? Here's What to Know

By Mali Anderson in Natural Products

If you're concerned about your kids eating toothpaste, you're not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 38 percent of children between the ages of three and six use too much toothpaste, putting them at risk of ingesting excessive amounts of fluoride. Here's what you need to know in case your child accidentally swallows toothpaste or mistakes it for a snack.

What Happens When a Child Eats Toothpaste

If your child enjoys the taste and flavor of toothpaste, you may find them with a tube in hand and the telltale signs of ingestion—toothpaste in and around their mouth. At this point, it can be difficult to know what to do, especially if you don't know how much toothpaste they swallowed.

Rest assured that the symptoms associated with toothpaste ingestion are generally mild. According to the National Capital Poison Center, swallowing toothpaste with fluoride can cause stomach upset in minor cases. More serious cases might induce nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

While ingestion of fluoride toothpaste rarely leads to health problems, it can sometimes have dental consequences. The American Dental Association (ADA) explains that if a younger child ingests a large amount of fluoride while their teeth are still developing, they may be at risk of developing a defect of the tooth enamel called dental fluorosis. This condition typically results in faint lines or streaks on the teeth. Luckily, dental fluorosis doesn't have any health effects beyond those minor cosmetic concerns.

Choosing the Right Toothpaste

Choosing a natural children's toothpaste that's free of fluoride, such as Tom's of Maine Fluoride-Free Children's Toothpaste, can help alleviate your concerns about your kids eating toothpaste. No fluoride means no risk of fluorosis for the littlest ones, and knowing the product only contains ingredients derived from plants and minerals can help you feel more confident that it is safe if swallowed. Make sure you choose a formula specially designed for your child's age group, whether they're a toddler or an older child learning to brush on their own.

Toddler biting on fork in high chair

Proper Brushing Habits for Kids

The ADA recommends brushing your child's teeth as soon as their first tooth comes in, but try to avoid using too much toothpaste. The CDC recommends using a streak of toothpaste the size of a rice grain for children under the age of three and no more than a pea-sized amount for children between the ages of three and six.

Supervise your child's brushing habits and give them pointers on best practices until they are able to brush properly on their own. This, in combination with choosing a natural, fluoride-free children's toothpaste, will help you establish a safe and effective oral care routine for your little one.

When to Introduce Fluoride Toothpaste

As your child gets older and masters the technique of brushing, you can consider switching to a children's fluoride toothpaste. The ADA emphasizes that it's important for children to get the right amount of fluoride—not too much and not too little. Fluoride ultimately helps protect their teeth and fight cavities, so using a fluoride toothpaste when appropriate is one way to ensure their mouth stays as healthy as possible.

Once your child understands how to properly brush, you can also introduce mouthwash to boost their oral care routine. Tom's of Maine Children's Anticavity Mouth Rinse, for example, helps prevent cavities and freshens breath.

So, if you are one of the many parents who have said, "I think my child ate toothpaste," know it is common for kids to be curious about something they see their family use each day, especially if it has a delicious flavor. That said, be aware of the potential consequences of too much toothpaste and what impact excessive fluoride can have on tooth development, as well as when it might be the right time to use a fluoride toothpaste. Choosing natural oral care can help ensure your entire family maintains healthy mouths.

Child licking fingers

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Why It's Good

Choosing natural oral care products for your family can ease your worries about the potential consequences of kids eating toothpaste. Because the products contain only naturally derived ingredients, you can rest assured your child isn't putting any harmful substances in their mouth or tummy.