I know many of you would probably opt out of eating a tube of toothpaste for breakfast, but I can’t help but wonder, what exactly makes it harmful to ingest these oral hygiene products? Now, I know that things like toothpaste and mouthwash are meant to keep all our mouths healthy and clean, but can you eat toothpaste safely if you wanted to? And if not, what would happen if you did? 

According to the Oral Health Foundation, most toothpastes contain an ingredient called sodium fluoride. Fluoride is a natural mineral that is found not only in toothpaste, but also in all of our drinking water and even in some of our foods.

So...if you can drink water and eat foods that contain fluoride, can you eat toothpaste too?

water, coffee, tea
Lauryn Lahr

Well, first of all, fluoride is a key ingredient in toothpaste mainly because it strengthens our tooth enamel. When our tooth enamel is strong, our teeth are more resistant to tooth decay. 

Second, the amount of fluoride found in your water supply varies depending on where you live, but it is usually a low dose of fluoride over a long period of time. The fluoride in drinking water still definitely affects your tooth enamel, but in a very positive way

The addition of fluoride to water supplies has been researched for over 60 years and studies have found that water fluoridation has proven to reduce tooth decay by 40 to 60 percent!

But, you can always have too much of a good thing...

sweet, sausage
Emma Delaney

One of the main reasons dentists strongly recommend avoiding swallowing toothpaste is because it can contribute to a condition known as “dental fluorosis.” Dental fluorosis is a defect of our tooth enamel in which fine white lines become visible on our teeth.

When we ingest too much fluoride during the first eight years of our life, we run the risk of developing dental fluorosis. When dental fluorosis enters the moderate or severe forms, our teeth start to erode and crumble!

And although it can be treated cosmetically, the damage to your enamel is 100% permanent! Yikes.

Dr. David Kerr elaborates that when you swallow toothpaste, an increased concentration of fluoride enters your blood supply and this "spike" of fluoride in your blood can adversely affect the development of your adult teeth. Spitting out your toothpaste after brushing can help maintain an appropriate amount of fluoride in your system.

What will happen to me if I do swallow an entire tube of toothpaste?

coffee, beer, tea
Vivek Kuruvilla

Ah yes, the million dollar question.

Spitting out your toothpaste after brushing can help maintain an appropriate amount of fluoride in your system.

According to the New York Times health guide, swallowing a large amount of toothpaste may cause stomach pain and possible intestinal blockage.But good news: if you survived 48 hours after ingesting the toothpaste, you shouldn't worry too much, recovery is very likely.

We start to develop our adult teeth when we are about four to five years old and this is approximately when our teeth can start to be affected by "too much fluoride." This is one of the main reasons why children's toothpastes have a lower concentration of fluoride than adult toothpastes. Good call, toothpaste makers. 

If you or your loved one has swallowed a large amount of toothpaste despite reading this article, you can reach the National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States 24/7.