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.

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67 thoughts on “Is Swallowing Toothpaste Really Bad for You?
    1. No Brock, I think it’s safe to say you are not going to die! But I certainly wouldn’t make it a daily habit of feasting on your toothpaste. Anything in excess can be dangerous, fluoride is no exception!

      1. Hello when i brush my teeth i think the toothpaste reaches my throat and it becomes dry, then i drink water i feel like the toothpaste is going down my stomach and idont like the feeling, im afraid something bad is gonna happen, i always try hard to rinse every bit of toothpaste out of my mouth, am i just being paranoid? Or its ok to drink the remaining toothpaste in my throat. Thanks.

  1. I work in a facility for mentally ill adults. Recently, it has come to light that one of the residents is actually eating tubes of toothpaste. These are small tubes, like the travel kind, but she is ingesting a good number of them… like six or seven. Would this be enough to be considered lethal dose?

    1. Hi Quentin and thanks for posting your question.

      I am unable to say for certain if this would be considered a “lethal” dose of toothpaste. But it sounds like this is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed.

      Although it would take very large quantities of fluoride to be considered a lethal dose, it certainly couldn’t be healthy either. Especially if this is being done on a regular basis. I’m thinking if this is an ongoing issue with this resident, then it should certainly be brought about in a discussion with their doctor!

  2. I ate some toothpaste yesterday. Took a little on my finger and Did it tree Times. Now i have Fever and i cough. Should i go to the dockor?

    1. I doubt your fever and cough is related to tasting a bit of toothpaste. But I’m not a doctor so if you are feeling ill, I would definitely go get checked out. Hope you feel better soon.

  3. I have been swallowing toothpaste for about a year now, my god mother scolded me and told me toothpaste is poisonous, after swallowing, I get a bit dizzy, I’m worried now, will I die from this?

    1. Hi Nell, and thanks for stopping by. As I told Emma before you, if your body is telling you something is wrong. Then I would advise consulting with your doctor. I hope you are able to get to the bottom of your symptoms and it’s nothing too serious.

  4. Hey am 15yrs old
    and I’ve been sort of addicted to the swallowing of toothpaste since I was 13
    Soooo I wonder what’s really going on with my body after the huge consumption.

    1. Well Shahad, unless you were consuming large bowls full at a time, then you’re probably fine. It would really take a lot over a long period to do any harm.

      Toothpaste would go through your system pretty quickly so doubtful there was any damage due to the fluoride.

  5. Hi my fella has had heartburn for years and ate toothpaste to help control it not realising its toxic, now he has chronic fatigue syndrome and stomach problems and is very very I’ll every day even had heart attack at 37 tho that may not be connected he does seem to have a fast metabolism soo fast he’s badly underweight I read somewhere toxic flouride makes body get hyper thyroid ism sorry for spelling,
    could it be flouride poisoning ? If so what do I do to get it out of him so he recovers . Thank you in advance .

    1. Well Gina, as discussed in my post it would take some massive amounts of toothpaste to actually do any damage to your internals. I would also think it would need to be a very large amount within a short period of time. Although the toothpaste may not digest well, it would most certainly find its way out through bowel movements. I would definitely suggest going to a doctor with these symptoms, which I’m sure he probably has already.

      But as far as removing the fluoride from his body, there’s not really any way to do that other than letting nature take it’s course, to the best of my knowledge anyway. I wish you and him the best and hope for a strong recovery.

  6. Hi i swallowed a bit of toothpaste earlier today my tummy is a lil sore and my throat is minty. Am i going to be okay?

  7. Hi! I just accidentally swallowed a medium amount of toothpaste today when I brushed my teeth. I also accidentally swallowed a small amount of toothpaste last night. My throat is minty I started to worry about this. Am I just going to be fine or should I go to the hospital? I’m 14 years old.

    1. Wow a lot of 14 year olds with this question. But to answer you, yes you should be fine unless you have an allergic reaction to the toothpaste. But if you brush with this same brand regularly then you would of noticed any reaction by now. If you were just brushing, then you wouldn’t have enough toothpaste to ingest a harmful amount. It would probably take sitting down with a bowl full and a spoon to do much harm, and even then maybe just a stomach ache.

      Although large amounts over time could potentially lead to fluoride poisoning…but in your case, I wouldn’t worry much.

  8. i have been eating tooth paste for over a year now. I don’t feel sick or anything but just wanted to ask, am i going to be okay?

    1. Emma I definitely wouldn’t advise out right eating toothpaste. It’s intended as a cleaning agent for your teeth, not as a food. But as long as you’re not devouring tubes of the stuff on a daily basis you should be ok. But again, I would advise against doing this.

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