How Much Toothpaste Should You Use?

Tip: You're probably using way more toothpaste than necessary.

What's a toothpaste commercial without a clean 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 use on our teeth is about a fraction of that—at least according to one dentist on TikTok.

Gao Jye Teh, DDS, a dentist based in Malaysia, went viral on TikTok in 2020 for sharing some oral health advice and became a social media dental hygiene star in the process. Two years later, in 2022, the same video had more than 12 million views, and Dr. Gao Jye had picked up more than 220,000 TikTok followers.

So, how much toothpaste does Dr. Gao Jye recommend you use while brushing your teeth? Here's what you should know. 

How Much Toothpaste Is Enough?

In the TikTok video, Dr. Gao Jye showed viewers what the right amount of toothpaste looks like, and it turns out that you only need a pea-sized amount. And actually, this is also written on the toothpaste packaging—you know, the stuff nobody reads.

Dr. Gao Jye also shared his video on Instagram, writing in the caption, "Commercials are lying to you! You don't need to use that much toothpaste."

Dr. Gao Jye said that using more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste poses the most significant risk to children who haven't yet 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," explained Dr. Gao Jye. "The cosmetic implications range from mild [discoloration] to yellow and brown stains to obvious pits in the teeth."

Geoffrey Morris, DMD, a cosmetic and restorative dentist in Boca Raton, Fla., confirmed Dr. Gao Jye's recommendations to Health, saying, "The recommended amount of toothpaste for adults is about the size of a pea on a soft bristle or electric toothbrush."

What Happens When You Use The Wrong Amount of Toothpaste?

As for kids under three, only a "smear" of toothpaste is required, according to Dr. Gao Jye. That's to ensure they don't accidentally swallow a lot of fluoride toothpaste, which isn't supposed to be ingested. They should also start brushing as soon as their first tooth erupts at around six months.

For adults, using too little toothpaste can be just as bad as using too much, according to Dr. Gao Jye. That's because your teeth won't get the fluoride's full protective benefits. Research has found that the right concentration of fluoride toothpaste—not too much and not too little—prevents cavities. On the other hand, toothpaste with negligible levels of fluoride do not.

"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," agreed Dr. Morris.

Dr. Gao Jye also offered a handy tip: "Once you brush your teeth, you should spit out the excess and not rinse your mouth with water. [That] is because the fluoride in the toothpaste takes time to act on your teeth."

Adding in Mouthwash

If you like to use mouthwash as part of your oral hygiene routine, Dr. Gao Jye recommended using one that contains fluoride at a different time from brushing. That 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," Dr. Gao Jye suggested.

Additionally, you should use mouthwash if you cannot reach areas inside your mouth that are hard to get with a toothbrush.

There are two types of mouthwash: cosmetic and therapeutic. Cosmetic mouthwash temporarily kills bad breath and makes your mouth taste nice. And therapeutic mouthwash loosens plaque, kills bacteria, and fights gingivitis. However, children younger than six should not use mouthwash.

A Quick Review

You've probably been using too much toothpaste when you brush. Instead of a full sweep across the bristles, you only need a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. And children between the ages of six months (when they get their first tooth) and three years need even less than that.

Make sure to use toothpaste with fluoride to help prevent cavities. Or, consider adding mouthwash to your routine. However, you should use it at a different time than when you brush if your mouthwash and toothpaste contain fluoride.

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  2. Walsh T, Worthington HV, Glenny AM, Marinho VC, Jeroncic A. Fluoride toothpastes of different concentrations for preventing dental cariesCochrane Database Syst Rev. 2019;3(3):CD007868. Published 2019 Mar 4. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007868.pub3

  3. American Dental Association. Mouthrinse (mouthwash).

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