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Advertisements show toothpaste lavishly spread on your toothbrush in gleaming colors and flavors from bubblegum, jasmine, to the standard fresh mint.  But how much is too much?

What is the right product and right amount to use per brushing? According to Dr. Victoria Parver, just a small pea-sized squeeze is right for children, while the adult proportion is a thin ribbon.  She explains that young children love the cotton candy or bubblegum flavors that kids’ toothpastes are formulated with. They swallow the toothpaste instead of spitting it out after brushing. Per their tendency to consume the toothpaste, children younger than three should use a non-fluoridated product and just a pea-sized amount.  Dr. Parver encourages adult supervision of children’s toothbrushing.

Once proper brushing and spitting are learned, fluoridated toothpaste for both children and adults strengthens teeth and helps prevent cavities from forming. Whitening toothpastes, Dr. Parver continues, contain abrasive materials that can actually damage the structure of the tooth. These should not be used for a long period of time or without dentist consultation.

    History shows us that toothpaste has played a part in the human oral hygiene dilemma since 5000 BC.  Those clever Ancient Egyptians who brought us paper, irrigation, and writing also began the toothpaste trend.  Their toothpaste, according to colgate.com, predated the toothbrush. China, India, Greece and Rome implemented toothpaste later, around 500 BC.  Their compounds contained noxious substances such as ox hoof ash, burnt egg shells, pumice or crushed bones and oyster shells to clean their teeth, Colgate tells us.  The Greeks and Romans added flavors to charcoal bark and the Chinese went the herbal route with ginseng, herbal mint, and salt additions. The modern era, prior to the 1850s, yielded tooth powders,  It wasn’t until the 1890s that Colgate developed a new delivery system of toothpaste in a tube. We, like those who came before us, use toothpaste because we share the same dental concerns. Today’s products effectively protect teeth from conditions such as:

  • Decay
  • Gingivitis
  • Plaque
  • Discoloration
  • Gum disease
  • Sensitivity
  • Halitosis (bad breath)

The Dental Health Foundation warns, however, the “over brushing” or “heavy handed brushing” can degrade teeth…as can using teeth as “tools.”  Nail biting, opening bottles, holding pins or nails, and even lip or tongue piercing can damage the enamel. Dr. Axelrod adds that even the most careful brushers should wait at least 30 minutes after imbibing acidic substances such a coffee, wine, soda, or citrus fruit.  This prevents the acid from being spread over the teeth.

Drs. Parver and Axelrod suggest:

  • Brushing at least twice a day, certainly in the morning and before bed
  • Brushing for at least two minutes per session
  • Flossing
  • Rinsing mouth after eating or drinking acidic substances
  • Dental check up twice yearly
  • Check with your dentist about safe, effective ways to whiten teeth
  • Use a fluoride toothpaste