We want to keep our pearly whites shiny and cavity free, so we use a generous amount of toothpaste every time we brush. But the bristles do most of the cleaning, so we’re actually overdoing it when it comes to toothpaste, says Steven Goldberg, a dentist in Manhattan. All you need is a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste to get the job done (see Exhibit A below). Kids younger than 6 should use even less—about the size of a grain of rice.
The recommendations are smaller for children because there’s concern they may swallow some toothpaste, and in extreme cases, they can experience fluorosis, brown spots on the teeth from too much fluoride. There is no harm if adults use more toothpaste than recommended, says Ana Paula Ferraz-Dougherty, a dentist and spokesperson for the American Dental Association. But as Goldberg points out, a lot of (fairly) expensive toothpaste will go down the drain.
“Using enough toothpaste to cover the entire brush head will only go to waste and be spit out into the sink,” Goldberg says. “Most people are using too much, because they follow what they’ve seen in advertisements and commercials.”