Questions and Answers

Is Swallowing Toothpaste Really Bad for You?

Toothpaste and toothbrushes
Photo by [ronnieb] morgueFile

Toothpaste, it’s cool, refreshing, makes your breath smell good and fights bacteria and plaque. Is swallowing toothpaste really bad for you? Why would something that seems so good potentially be bad for your health?

Growing up, learning how to brush your teeth is something every kid learns early. But I remember part of that lesson being, “Don’t swallow the toothpaste, it’s bad for you.” I’m sure most of you have heard this and it’s something we don’t really think about questioning.

Not swallowing the toothpaste is something we trust and it’s something most of us just don’t do. But is it really bad for your health or potentially dangerous? As usual, we’re going to dig a little deeper in this strange and unusual thought and just see what we can come up with.

Toothpaste and the U.S. FDA

If you haven’t noticed before, toothbrushes don’t have any kind of warning label on the packages. Nothing noted by the FDA at all. But look on a tube of toothpaste and you’ll see that warning label.

1997 marked a point in time that the FDA found toothpaste manufacturers weren’t following the safety guidelines closely enough where toothpaste was concerned. After which a pretty frightening warning label began to appear on your favorite brands.

One such warning states,

“Keep out of reach of children under 6 years of age. If more than used for brushing is accidentally swallowed, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away.”

Now that sounds like a pretty scary warning doesn’t it? It’s definitely something that would make people a little weary of swallowing their toothpaste.

The Aftermath of Toothpaste Warning Labels

As you can imagine, after toothpaste boxes hit the shelves with the new warning label attached, there was mass chaos and people were full of worry and had many questions.

The toothpaste consumer phone lines received hundreds of calls from worried consumers with questions, and the Poison Control Centers were receiving tons of calls as well.

There were many worried parents freaking out cos their child may of accidentally swallowed a little bit of toothpaste. Truth is, the average consumer really didn’t know what to expect and weren’t sure just how bad the situation may be.

Basically the answers that were acquired stated that everything would be fine, but there may be some vomiting involved, or not… But if the vomiting continued or became severe, then a visit to the doctor may be in order.

So basically the only side effect to swallowing toothpaste appeared to be an upset stomach and possible dehydration due to excessive vomiting. In fact, according to the statistics, 4,453 cases of fluoride exposure were reported the year before warning labels hit the shelves. But to no surprise, none of these cases were life threatening.

Is the Fluoride found in Toothpaste Toxic?

Without a doubt, fluoride salts are in fact toxic when consumed in large quantities. But a lethal dose of sodium fluoride is somewhere around five to ten grams for an adult. Here’s the kicker, in an eight ounce tube of Colgate, there is less than half a gram of sodium fluoride in the entire tube.

So if you do the math on that, it would take nearly 10 eight ounce tubes of toothpaste to even touch the lower end of that threshold. It’s highly unlikely that anyone brushing their teeth would consume that much. They would literally need to devour a bowl full of toothpaste before it would become toxic.

Yes, children are much smaller and logic tells us it wouldn’t take near as much for a child to become sick from toothpaste that it would for an adult. But any child would still need to consume several tubes of the stuff before they would get sick.

Are the Warning Labels Really Necessary?

After learning the facts about how hard it would be to get sick from toothpaste, then you’re probably wondering, “Are the warning labels really necessary?”

According to the American Dental Association, the main concern with coming into contact with too much fluoride is fluorosis. Fluorosis is a cosmetic discoloration of the teeth caused from too much fluoride coming into contact with your teeth. It’s quite common in children who drink fluoridated water.

It will usually show as small white specks on the teeth and it’s really quite harmless as far as your health is concerned. But it can get pretty bad if a continued habit of eating toothpaste is formed. This is the main reason the ADA recommends a small amount of toothpaste on the brush.

The American Dental Association had actually protested the warning labels stating they were grossly over exaggerating the severity of what would happen by ingesting toothpaste.

So to sum things up, yes toothpaste tubes do have a warning label, but things aren’t as bad as they make it sound. Unless you swallow a half gallon of toothpaste, odds are you’ll be fine. But I still believe it’s good practice to teach your children not to eat that yummy tasting stuff. If for no other reason, it’s tradition.

Do you like the taste of toothpaste or have you ever swallowed enough to become nauseous? Share you thoughts in the comments below.

Similar Posts

67 thoughts on “Is Swallowing Toothpaste Really Bad for You?
  1. I dont feel it bad. May be the writer’s opinion is different. I am happy to see the writing skills of the writer how he elaborated the topic.

    1. No I’m with you Printusher. I don’t think toothpaste is bad for you to swallow. You would really have to ingest a lot of it before any side effects would present themselves. Thanks for the comment!

  2. well, they have to warn us as there are many laws associated.
    But, I dont think that there is any harm in swallowing a little bit of toothpaste.
    Indeed it is great for tasting!

    1. No doubt Yogesh, could you imagine how boring it would be to brush your teeth if there was not zippy flavor at all. :p

  3. I have had a loving devotion to toothpaste since having braces as a kid … I would always carry a small tube to school with me so I could ‘freshen up’ after lunch etc, actually, I ended up practically eating the stuff a little at a time – No harm done.

    Now a days – I don’t walk around with it, but I rub whitening toothpaste on my teeth every night before sleeping (not spitting it out)…. Still no harm done!

    However, I am waiting for the day to come when I get kidney stones painfully passing through my system due to fluoride build-up… That said, there’s more fluoride in our water than our toothpaste, so ….. Time will tell!

    1. I can see how you would of grown up loving toothpaste, especially if you were interacting with a dentist or orthodontist regularly from such an early age.

      But I’m sure it’s like most other chemicals that enter the human body, they are filtered out over time, so I doubt there would be any substantial concentration of fluoride in your system at any one time. At least not enough to do any harm.

  4. A build-up of fluoride can result in kidney stones.

    Years of consistently swallowing even small amounts of fluoridated toothpaste COULD be a cause of fluoride build-up.

    Hence the warning’s one would suppose?!

    1. You’re right emmalinabelle, years of build up could potentially be dangerous. But I would think the human body would filter out most of the impurities over time. But the possible dangers associated with fluoride poisoning is most definitely the cause for the warnings.

  5. I have accidentally swallowed toothpaste a couple of times and felt nothing. You would probably have to abuse it like anything else to expect bad results. Cool article.

    1. It’s true Mark, you would literally have to swallow gallons of the stuff before you would see any harmful side effects.

  6. I do ingest toothpaste but for a certain reason. Have never gotten sick in any way at all. I take about 4 to 6 timesa day. That is within working hours. Have been doing this since age 19 am now going on towards my 50’s. Instead of eating chappies or running to the bathroom to go clean with mouth wash I just take a little tooth paste put in my mouth spread it all over my teeth and carry on working, fresh breath alt all times, asspecialy because I am in contact wit customers and coLlegues all day. I have a breath problem that gets bad at times and the tooth paste has always been the best selution. Have tried everything possable to rectify my problem to no avail.

    1. I certainly appreciate you sharing with us Ketrien. I think that is a perfect remedy for bad breath and I’m sure there are many people that do this very thing on a daily basis without any ill effects. It would be super easy to carry a small travel size tube with you in your pocket for those quick fixes so to speak. Especially handy when working closely with the public as you’ve explained.

      I think using toothpaste in this manner is definitely not bad for your health. But if it gets to the point where someone is consuming a mixing bowl full daily, then there may be some severe side effects.

  7. Swallowing toothpaste will not cause serious damage but it is always a good idea to rinse out after brushing.

  8. So glad to have found your article as my daughter was concerned after eating an oreo her prankster sister had filled with some toothpaste in the center. I told her not to worry about it, grabbed one of the cookies and then after a moment realized… “Wait- that’s mint I taste!” and realized I too fell for it.
    (She really hid it in a hollowed out center!)
    So I was laughing as I started reading and ended still amused; with one child no longer convinced she was going to DIE as she had been dramatically insisting after she ate the maligned cookie!

    1. Msafire, as I know your daughter’s fears should not be funny, I have to say I was really tickled as I read your comment. It’s times like these growning up that make memories so fun isn’t it?

      Yes, your daughter can rest easy knowing that the minty center will not lead to her demise. Even though I wouldn’t recommend eating toothpaste on a regular basis, it is not harmful. After all, producers of beauty and hygienic products have to pass rigorous testing before their products may become available to the public. That being said, it would literally take a gallon of toothpaste consumed in one sitting before it would become harmful. And at that rate it would probably only lead to a sour stomach.

      But I have to say, that was some sneaky business your oreo pranking daughter pulled off, have to give her some credit for creativity! lol 😀

  9. My 2 yearold had swallowed some Colgate. Should I be worried? It was a small amount she put the wrong toothpaste on her toothbrush. While I was brushing it for her I noticed the smell and she had swallowed some before i made her spit it out

    1. Sam, you have nothing to worry about. Small amounts of toothpaste are quite harmless if swallowed. It would take a very large amount to do any real damage.

    1. Hi Lisle and thanks for stopping by the blog.

      I have to say that bet sounds mighty tempting. That being said I suppose the real decision to take them up on this would be yours. But I personally wouldn’t recommend it without first consulting your doctor. Evidence shows that something like this is doubtful to do any fatal damage, but it could make you very sick to your stomach for a bit. I would say just use common sense on this one. 🙂

Comments are closed.