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Toothpaste is a product used to clean teeth. This article discusses the effects of swallowing a lot of toothpaste.
This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
- Sodium fluoride
Swallowing a large amount of regular toothpaste may cause stomach pain and possible intestinal blockage.
These additional symptoms may occur when swallowing a large amount of toothpaste containing fluoride:
- Difficulty breathing
- Heart attack
- Salty or soapy taste in the mouth
- Slow heart rate
Do NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional. Seek immediate medical help.
If the product was swallowed, immediately give the person water or milk, unless told otherwise by a health care provider. Do NOT give water or milk if the person is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.
Before Calling Emergency
Determine the following information:
- The person's age, weight, and condition
- The name of the product (as well as the ingredients and strength, if known)
- The time it was swallowed
- The amount swallowed
The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.
This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
See: Poison control center - emergency number
What to Expect at the Emergency Room
If you swallow toothpaste that does not contain fluoride, you may not need to go to the hospital.
Those who swallow a lot of fluoride toothpaste, especially if they are small children, may need to go to the hospital emergency department.
At the emergency room, the health care provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Blood and urine tests will be done. The person may receive:
Activated charcoal to prevent the rest of the poison from getting absorbed into the stomach and digestive tract
Airway and breathing support, including oxygen. In extreme cases, a tube may be passed through the mouth into the lungs to prevent aspiration.
Calcium (an antidote), to reverse the effect of the poison
EKG (electrocardiogram, or heart tracing)
Endoscopy -- a camera down the throat to see burns to the esophagus and stomach
Fluids through a vein (by IV)
Medicines to treat symptoms
- Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)
People who swallow a very large amount of fluoride toothpaste and survive 48 hours usually recover.
Most nonfluoride toothpastes are nontoxic (nonpoisonous). People are very likely to recover.
Kulig K. General approach to the poisoned patient. In: Marx J, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2013:chap 147.
- Last reviewed on 11/2/2014
- Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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