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.
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.)
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.
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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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