supervised brushingThe discovery of fluoride and its current application in drinking water, toothpastes, mouthrinses, and other related products have contributed significantly to the reduction of dental cavities. However, each year thousands of people have contacted the Poison Control Center in the United States because they had accidentally ingested fluoride toothpaste and other fluoride-containing products.

Below is an excerpt of an incident described by “ihelpyou” from Yahoo Answers:

Am i gonna die?
i was brushing my teeth, then i just started walking around upstairs. i went to the play room and started looking at my old toys and books and all my old memories. the toothbrush was still in my mouth. then all of a sudden, i sneezed. i didn’t want the toothpaste to fall on the ground, so i put my head up instead, and the toothpaste went in my mouth by accident. i tryed to get it out by coughing, but no use….. i went to look at the toothpaste tube, and it said contact the poison control thing if swallowed.
but am i gonna die if i did swallow it?” Full text of this story here >.

There are about twenty answers for this question. Surprisingly, these answers reveal the sad truth that many people do not understand about the toxicity of fluoride and when to call the Poison Control Center. It is unquestionably important for everyone to learn the signs and symptoms of fluoride toxicity, especially when there is a small child in the family.

The facts about fluoride toxicity are:

  • Early symptoms of acute fluoride toxicity (e.g. gastrointestinal pain, nausea, vomiting, headaches) can be produced at doses as low as 0.1 to 0.3 mg/kg.
  • Swallowing fluoride at the amount 5 mg/kg can be fatal.
  • Ingestion of as little as 1 percent of a tube of flavored children’s toothpaste can produce acute fluoride toxicity in a young child.

The most common symptoms of acute fluoride toxicity include:

Nausea (97%),
Vomiting (68%),
Diarrhea (65%),
Abdominal cramps (53%),
Headaches (41%), and
Burning sensations in the throat or chest (12%).

SOURCE: Penman AD, Brackin BT, Embrey R. (1997). Outbreak of acute fluoride poisoning caused by a fluoride overfeed, Mississippi, 1993. Public Health Reports 112:403-9.


In order to prevent fluoride poisoning from accidentally ingestion of toothpastes, most dentists recommend:

  • For infants (0-1 year old): No toothpaste should be used.
  • For small children (2-5 years old): A pea-sized mass of toothpaste is recommended, under parental supervision during brushing.
  • For older children (6-15): A pea-sized amount is advised.

If the child has accidentally swallowed the toothpaste and had several of the signs and symptoms described above, call the Poison Control Center, induce vomiting, and go to the emergency room immediately.