Have you ever wondered about toothpaste and what happens if you swallow toothpaste? You may have mistakenly or intentionally ingested toothpaste, or you have a kid who swallowed toothpaste – as they almost always do. Well, here’s what happens when you swallow toothpaste.
You may be looking to get a straight answer concerning this but that’s not the case. What really happens to you when you swallow toothpaste depends on how much toothpaste you swallow. If you ingest only a small quantity of toothpaste, you’re safe. It just goes into your system and is excreted without causing any harm.
However, the problem comes when you ingest large amounts of toothpaste. This is especially peculiar to kids who are in the ‘oral stage’. They tend to believe everything is supposed to be played with and put into the mouth. If a child who is not being monitored ingests large amounts of toothpaste, there may be problems.
Of note is the fact that children have relatively more fragile systems than adults. Ingestion of large amounts of toothpaste will more likely have worse effects on kids than it will on adults.
Fluoride in Toothpaste
Toothpastes contain a substance called fluoride, which is beneficial to our teeth; helps strengthen our teeth and prevents cavities from forming. But as with everything else, too much of anything is bad. Fluoride is good for our teeth but consumption of a large amount in the form of toothpaste can lead to fluoride toxicity.
Our bodies have a certain levels of daily fluoride intake that is needed every day to keep healthy. This range also differs with respect to the different age groups, infants and children needing lower quantities than adults. This is the reason why children have lesser amount of fluoride in their toothpastes and why it is relatively easier for infants and children to be predisposed to fluoride toxicity.
Anything above that range of daily fluoride need is pushing towards toxicity and will lead to certain unwanted symptoms, but before it gets to this, there may mild effects.
Dental Fluorosis and Toothpaste Ingestion – What’s that about?
Children who consume large amounts of fluoride (over two to three times the recommended intake) over time, in the form of swallowing toothpaste are predisposed to a condition called dental fluorosis.
This is a condition where there is appearance of white specks on the teeth, usually whiter than the tooth color. It may be accompanied by mottling and staining of teeth and discoloration due to dental fluorosis worsens with increased fluoride intake.
Dental fluorosis is a condition of cosmetic concern and may involve expensive dental procedures to correct it. To prevent this, it is therefore advisable that children are guided and supervised by parents or guardians while brushing, to avoid ingesting large amounts of toothpaste.
Children under three years are advised to use only a smear of toothpaste to brush their teeth in order to prevent so much ingestion of toothpaste. Kids three to six years of age are to use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste too, for this same purpose.
So What Happens if You Swallow Toothpaste
In children and other vulnerable people, the possibility of fluoride poisoning increases. From a consumption of 5mg per kilogram of body weight of fluoride, adverse symptoms can be seen. The lowest potentially fatal dose of fluoride is also considered to be 5mg/kg body weight. Symptoms of fluoride toxicity include vomiting, nausea and abdominal pain.
These are almost always seen in acute fluoride toxicity. Symptoms such as sweating, diarrhea, excessive salivation, tearing and generalized body weakness can also be seen. The American Dental Association has therefore regulated the use of fluoride by stating that no more than 120mg of fluoride should be dispensed at a time.
Adults can also suffer from acute fluoride toxicity, are not exempted from the associated symptoms and are also advised to take care not to consume unnecessarily high amounts of fluoride.
Video: What Happens If You Eat A Tube Of Toothpaste
This video will give you more information on what happens to your body when you swallow toothpaste.
What to Do if you Swallow Toothpaste
If for any reason, you or your kid swallows toothpaste, you do not need to panic. Firstly, note the quantity of toothpaste that was swallowed. If a small amount of toothpaste was swallowed while brushing, for example, you may not need to do anything. Very small quantities of toothpaste are not likely to affect you in any way.
You will however, need to be careful not to swallow any more toothpaste. In the case of kids swallowing toothpaste, monitor the kid throughout the day for any symptoms or effects of the toothpaste. If there is any, be sure to report to your dentist as soon as possible.
If there are none, there’s no need to go to the dentist. Consequently, however, your kid should be monitored, assisted and guided while brushing. Children up to six years of age should ideally be assisted while brushing their teeth for reasons such as possible swallow of toothpaste.
Toothpaste, while essential for your oral health, is not supposed to be ingested. There are side effects associated with the ingestion of toothpaste, and there could be long term effects of large toothpaste consumption.
Prevent ingestion of toothpaste as much as possible and if you happen to do so and develop symptoms, visit your dentist immediately.