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How Much Toothpaste Is Too Much?

Use just a dab of toothpaste while brushing.

Americans, especially young children, put too much toothpaste on their brushes, say members of the Chicago Dental Society.

"I think we have become influenced by commercials featuring toothbrushes loaded with perfectly placed paste," says Cheryl Watson-Lowry, D.D.S., a general dentist who practices on Chicago's South Side. "What you see in commercials is too much for an adult, and it is way too much for a child."

Dr. Watson-Lowry advises consumers to squeeze less toothpaste out of the tube and she suggests two appropriate quantities to place on the brush.

"Consumers should place a small pea-sized dab of toothpaste on the toothbrush; that's all it takes," she notes. "Or you can apply a nirdle -- that's the actual word -- which is a very thin layer of paste that goes the length of the bristles on the toothbrush."

Adults should monitor the amount of toothpaste applied to children's toothbrushes. "In fact, I suggest that parents actually place the paste on the brush because children really haven't developed the dexterity with their hands and they tend to use an excessive amount of paste," says Dr. Watson-Lowry. "Plus, kids think that more is better, but it's not. Small kids have trouble spitting out the toothpaste and they frequently swallow it. That's extra fluoride they don't need."

In fact, overzealous use of fluoridated toothpaste can lead to a condition known as fluorosis, in which teeth become chalky white or yellowed and in severe cases, brittle. The discoloration is permanent, but teeth sometimes can be brightened with bleaching techniques. Fluorosis causes no other known physical problems.

"Parents really need to watch the amount of fluoride their children ingest," says Dr. Watson-Lowry. "They should watch their child brush, show the child how to spit out the toothpaste, and if necessary, wipe or flush the toothpaste out of the child's mouth so it won't be ingested."

Besides toothpaste, fluoride can be found in a variety of products, including mouth rinses, supplements in tablet form and drinking water. Other products, such as juice boxes and soda pop, may contain fluoride, depending on their water sources. For example, if the bottler for a soda pop company is located in a community where fluoridated water is present, fluoride will be present in the product. Some children also receive topical fluoride treatments during a routine dental visit.

"Regular visits to the dentist are important because dentists can tell if a child is receiving too much fluoride," concludes Dr. Watson-Lowry.

Although fluoride use should be monitored, it's important to note that water fluoridation is safe and effective. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider water fluoridation one of the top 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century.

Remember, only a dentist can diagnose your dental problems and offer the right treatment plan for you. If you need a dentist, call us at 1-866-970-0441 to be connected with one today.

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