Close-Up of Child Putting Toothpaste on a Toothbrush

We’ve all seen those commercials & ads that show a toothbrush with a generous swoosh of toothpaste. While that imagery is very satisfying, in reality that’s way more toothpaste than anyone needs.

Reports have shown that about 40% of kids ages 3 to 6 use too much toothpaste, which can set them up for poor oral health throughout their lives. While it’s more important for children to avoid using too much, adults could also benefit from scaling down their toothpaste usage.

How Much Do You Need?

Adults using a fluoride toothpaste need only a pea-sized amount on their toothbrush. Children often need half of that, while infants need even less—about a rice sized smear. Talk to your dentist to get a more accurate picture of how much toothpaste you & your family members actually need.

Why Not Use More?

You may wonder why it’s bad to use a lot of toothpaste. Wouldn’t using more just mean your teeth would end up cleaner? It actually doesn’t work that way, & many dentists say that less is more when it comes to how much toothpaste you use. The main concern with using too much toothpaste is fluorosis, which affects mostly children.

What Is Fluorosis?

Fluorosis is a condition that is caused by ingesting too much fluoride, primarily affecting children up to age 8. While fluoride strengthens teeth by encouraging the enamel to remineralize, this can throw off the mineralization process in teeth that are still developing. The result is adult teeth that come in stained, either by white streaks or dark spots, & in moderate to severe cases the teeth are rough, making them prone to decay as rough teeth are more difficult to clean.

Considering the prevalence of fluoridated tap water, combined with kids’ tendency to swallow toothpaste because it tastes good, it’s important for parents to make sure their children use the right amount of toothpaste to prevent fluorosis & a life of cavities & other dental issues.

Why Should Adults Practice Toothpaste Restraint?

Because their primary teeth have finished growing, adults don’t need to worry about fluorosis. However, they should be aware of how abrasive their toothpaste is. Toothpaste is naturally abrasive to help scrub the bacteria & plaque off your teeth, though some toothpastes are more abrasive than others. Combined with overzealous brushing, you can actually wear down the enamel on your teeth, weakening them against decay.

The good news is that this is easy to avoid. Simply use a soft-bristled toothbrush & a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Plus, using less toothpaste means you’ll go through the tube less quickly, which can save you money over time!

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