How Much Toothpaste Do You Need to Brush Your Teeth?


Look at this image. The toothpaste is just so elegantly placed on top of the toothbrush, but look how much there is! 

Monkey see monkey do right? 

Us consumers see that lovely swoosh of toothpaste going on the toothbrush in every commercial, but what they do not want you to know is that you only need about a small pea-sized amount of toothpaste! Any more than that isn’t any more effective.

And when we do this time and time again, we build a habit, which is the basis of all product marketing. 

Build a habit, build an empire of consumers who keep coming back for more. Making sure you just can’t get enough!

This makes sense right; more toothpaste used, more toothpaste bought which means more money. 

Have you ever actually stopped to ask yourself,  “why do I put so much toothpaste on my brush?” You may be fumbling for your thoughts. Is it what was shown to you by your mother or father growing up, and the countless toothpaste advertisements that we see. 

Our subconscious adds this up and builds an automatic routine; adding a thick layer of toothpaste. 

No habit comes without reward/consequence. By using the toothpaste and brushing our teeth we are rewarded with a clean feeling in our mouth. 

We are also somehow taught that the more “foamy” something is that’s the more cleaning it is actually doing. 

This foaming comes from the Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) that most companies put into their toothpaste. Even though it is not readily studied, here is an interesting article on how sodium lauryl sulphate has had an effect on the tissue cells on the inside cheek of hamsters. I don’t condone animal testing, but this article has important key factors to pay attention to. 

The cells in the cheek of the hamster when exposed to the SLS changed. Without SLS they did not change. 

A lot of companies will not want to change their formula based on a shortage of evidence. But you as a consumer can choose a product that right for you. Be your own advocate. 

Let’s step away from the toothpaste conversation and head into the crazy bold truth of your oral hygiene routine. 

It’s not the toothpaste that’s doing the dirty work, it’s the brush itself. The hard truth is that you don’t even need the toothpaste really, the only good thing about toothpaste is;

  1. The fluoride to prevent cavities (I respect peoples choice to not use fluoride) 
  2. Another active ingredient such as potassium nitrate (to help treat sensitivity), or Sensodyne’s Novamin Technology that actually helps to build a microscopic calcified layer on the root surfaces to prevent wear over time.

If you are a user of non-fluoridated toothpaste, then why are you using it at all?

Let’s take another step back.   

Why are you brushing and flossing? What is the ultimate goal? 

It is to remove and disrupt the bacteria and food debris that is in your mouth. This bacteria and food debris need to be manually removed from your mouth. The plaque (bacteria) that resides on the surfaces of your mouth is so so sticky. 

Imagine egg that’s been stuck on your plate – running it under water and chemical mixture is not going to solve the problem. That stuff needs to be scrubbed and scraped off. 

This is exactly what happens to your mouth. 

All these kinds of toothpaste that claim to do everything, and basically fix your oral health issues; 

Sorry, they just don’t work. They will not fix your problems. 

Flossing and brushing will do you more benefit than brushing with toothpaste alone. 

Because there is so much false information out there in the dental world and every company looking to make just a few more dimes off of each customer, we have to be mindful and ask questions. 

Before I entered dental hygiene school I had no idea about any of this. As the schooling continued and I started to be aware of the things we just talked about it really made me upset that it wasn’t mainstream knowledge. I was shocked. 

The dental industry is worth billions, everyone trying to get their share. 

Be aware! 

Happy brushing, 

Holly 🙂

Holly Verran RDH

I am a Registered Dental Hygienist in Ontario, Canada. I hold registration and good standing with both the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario and the Canadian Dental Hygiene Association.

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