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How Much Toothpaste Should You Use? Dentist Goes Viral for Showing How Much You Really Need While Brushing

What’s a toothpaste commercial without a pristine toothbrush and a plump swish of toothpaste across the top of the bristles? Well, get ready to have your mind blown: The amount of toothpaste we should actually be using on our teeth is about a fraction of that—at least according to one dentist on TikTok.

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Dr. Gao Jye Teh, a Malaysian dentist who’s studying at King’s College London, recently went viral on TikTok for sharing some oral health advice, and has become social media’s dental hygiene star in the process. In the TikTok video, he showed viewers—all 6 million of them—what the right amount of toothpaste looks like. For people over 3 years of age, it’s the size of a single pea. (FYI,this is also written on the toothpaste packaging—you know, the stuff nobody reads.)

Tip: You're probably using way more than what's necessary.

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Tip: You’re probably using way more than what’s necessary.

Dr. Gao also shared his video to Instagram, writing in the caption, “Commercials are lying to you! You don’t need to use that much toothpaste.”

Dr. Gao said that using more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste poses the greatest risk to children who haven’t yet got fully-developed adult teeth. “This is because fluoride, when ingested in large amounts, can cause a cosmetic condition known as dental fluorosis on the developing teeth,” he explained. “The cosmetic implications range from mild [discoloration] to yellow and brown stains to obvious pits in the teeth.”

Geoffrey Morris, DMD, cosmetic and restorative dentist in Boca Raton, Florida, confirmed this to Health, saying, “the recommended amount of toothpaste for adults is about the size of a pea on a soft bristle or electric toothbrush.”

As for kids under age 3, only a “smear” of toothpaste is required—about the size of a rice grain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s to ensure they don’t accidentally swallow a lot of fluoride toothpaste, which isn’t supposed to be ingested.

RELATED: The Best Whitening Toothpaste, According to Experts

Using too little toothpaste can be just as bad as using too much, according to Dr. Gao, because your teeth won’t get the fluoride’s full protective benefits. “The problem with using too little toothpaste is you may not have enough surfactant to create the bubbles that help clean, as well as enough fluoride to protect the teeth,” Dr. Morris says.

Dr. Gao also offered a handy tip: “Once you brush your teeth, you should spit out the excess and not rinse your mouth with water. This is because the fluoride in the toothpaste takes time to act on your teeth.”

If you like to use mouthwash as part of your oral hygiene routine, Dr. Gao recommends using one that contains fluoride at a different time from brushing, as this will increase the amount of fluoride exposure and help to remineralize your teeth. “Seek advice from your dentist to decide which type [of mouthwash] you are most suited for,” he suggested.

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Brushing Your Teeth in the Shower Is OK

I’ve always admired my roommate’s early-bird tendencies. She claims that jumping in the shower immediately after her alarm goes off keeps her from crawling back in bed – doing her dental hygiene routine under that running water gets her fully alert and ready to take on the day, too.

a close up of a knife: Brushing Your Teeth in the Shower Is OK - as Long as You Follow This Dentist's Tips

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Brushing Your Teeth in the Shower Is OK – as Long as You Follow This Dentist’s Tips

At this point, I’ll do nearly anything to become a morning person, but I’ve had my suspicions about how sanitary it is to brush your teeth in the shower.

That’s why I chatted with David C. Gordon, DDS, a partner at the Gordon Center For General and Advanced Dentistry in Gaithersburg, MD, before reinventing my morning rituals. Overall, he doesn’t see many problems with brushing your teeth in the shower – he just warns that the approach doesn’t always set you up to practice good oral hygiene consistently.

“The most important thing is that everyone brushes their teeth twice a day for two minutes [at a time] with fluoride toothpaste and flosses once a day,” he says.

“Most people shower once a day, but everyone should brush their teeth twice a day. Brushing in the shower either sets people up to only brush once a day or rush brushing the second time because it is not part of their routine.”

Gordon believes that those who brush in the shower are less likely to floss and use mouthwash because it’s an added step outside their shower routine. He believes that keeping a waterpik (although it shouldn’t fully replace your floss!) and mouthwash in the shower could help keep you on track.

And while you’re upgrading your oral hygiene supplies for the shower, consider investing in a toothbrush holder that’ll keep yours upright and dry.

“It can be unhealthy to store your toothbrush in the shower, but it does not have to be. A toothbrush shouldn’t be wet or damp all the time. If the shower does not dry out, the toothbrush can’t dry out, and bacteria can grow on it,” he says.

“There are plenty of suction cup toothbrush holders available for purchase. Stay away from the ones that enclose the toothbrush bristles as they can prevent the toothbrush from drying, and that will help bacteria form.”

As long as you follow Gordon’s tips, practice good oral hygiene consistently, and your dentist says to keep doing what you’re doing come your six-month checkup, you should be OK to continue brushing your teeth in the shower.

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