Children getting into toothpaste is a very common call to the poison center because they love to imitate adults. During an unsupervised moment with a tube of toothpaste, their curious nature may take over and the child may actually eat the toothpaste.
Most toothpastes contains fluoride to help prevent cavities and strengthen tooth enamel. The amount of fluoride in toothpaste is regulated by the FDA so that the maximum amount allowed in a tube is usually a low enough concentration that will cause only minor symptoms such as stomach upset and vomiting if accidentally swallowed. In addition to fluoride, other ingredients in toothpaste include an abrasive to remove plaque, a surfactant (soap) to clean the teeth, and a sweetener such as sorbitol for a pleasant taste. These additional ingredients are not considered toxic, however, the surfactant can cause minor irritation to the stomach, and the sweetening agent can have laxative like effects if ingested in large amounts.
If you find your child eating toothpaste, do not panic. Take the toothpaste away from them, wipe out the mouth with a soft, wet cloth and give them some water to drink. If problems start or you have questions, call the Missouri Poison Center right away at 1-800-222-1222. The poison center is open all day, every day for poisoning emergencies and questions.
Special Note: If your child has gotten into prescription dental products, such as toothpaste, rinses, drops, tablets and lozenges, the risk for fluoride toxicity is increased. Many prescription dental products contain up to 5 times more fluoride than over-the-counter toothpaste and rinses. Immediately call the Missouri Poison center at 1-800-222-1222 for expert advice.