Do Your Kids Use Too Much Toothpaste and Do They Brush Correctly?

Pretty mother with her daughter brushing their teeth.

Nearly 40% of children ages 3 to 6 use more toothpaste than needed when brushing their teeth, dentists report. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that when kids use too much toothpaste and inadvertently ingest too much fluoride, it can damage growing teeth. And many kids don’t brush their teeth correctly. Here’s what you need to know.

Small amount of toothpaste

Parents and caregivers buy colorful toothbrushes and fruity toothpaste flavors to make toothbrushing fun for kids. But they also need to help kids use the right amount of toothpaste and teach them how to brush their teeth correctly. Because they like the taste, kids use too much toothpaste most of the time. While kids may think it’s funny to see the paste foaming from their mouths, it’s a sign that they’ve overdone it.

Dentists recommend that kids younger than age 3 use a tiny smear of toothpaste on their toothbrush, about the size of a grain of rice. Kids ages 3 to 6 should use only a dab of toothpaste when brushing, or about the size of a pea.

Protect tooth enamel

Kids’ teeth develop under the gums until about age 8. Once they poke through the gums, teeth can take up to three years to develop fully. Often when brushing their teeth, kids swallow their toothpaste. So dentists recommend that kids age 6 and younger do not use toothpaste with fluoride.

Researchers discovered that swallowing too much toothpaste with fluoride can damage tooth enamel on developing teeth. It’s a condition called dental fluorosis. The fluoride can cause white spots, pits or lines to form on teeth. In severe cases, too much fluoride can discolor teeth or create defects in the tooth enamel.

Teach kids how to brush

Parents and caregivers should teach kids how to brush. Practicing good dental habits can help kids have healthy teeth throughout life. Follow these tips:

  • Use a soft toothbrush designed for kids. Brush kids’ teeth two times daily, after breakfast and before bedtime, until at least age 3.
    • Show kids how to brush in a gentle, circular motion on all tooth surfaces.
  • After age 3, check kids’ toothbrushing habits. Make sure they brush twice a day for two to three minutes each time and floss once daily. It may be helpful to play a toothbrushing song to keep them entertained those two to three minutes while they’re brushing.
  • Make sure kids spit out the toothpaste. But they don’t need to rinse their mouths, because the toothpaste will continue to fight decay for several minutes.
    • At bedtime, kids should not eat or drink after brushing their teeth. So consider giving them a big drink of water before they brush.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups. Review this infographic for guidelines.


Parents and caregivers can help kids enjoy healthy teeth throughout life. If your kids use too much toothpaste or need help brushing, set aside time to brush your teeth when your kids do. Turn it into a fun activity you can do together. Learn more by reading this blog and watching this video.

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