Toothpaste overdose

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Definition

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.

Alternative Names

Poisonous Ingredient

  • Sodium fluoride
  • Triclosan

Where Found

  • Various toothpastes

Symptoms

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:

  • Convulsions
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drooling
  • Heart attack
  • Salty or soapy taste in the mouth
  • Slow heart rate
  • Shock
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

Home Treatment

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 instructed otherwise by a health care provider. Do NOT give water or milk if the patient 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 patient'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

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

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.

Take the container with you to the hospital, if possible.

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 patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Blood and urine tests will be done. The patient may receive:

  • Calcium -- medicine (antidote) to reverse the effect of the poison
  • Endoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns to the esophagus and the stomach
  • Fluids by IV
  • Medicines to treat symptoms
  • Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)

Expectations (prognosis)

Patients who swallow a very large amount of fluoride toothpaste and survive 48 hours usually recover. See also: Fluoride overdose

Most nonfluoride (regular) toothpastes are relatively nontoxic (nonpoisonous). Recovery is very likely.

References

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 8/3/2011
  • Eric Perez, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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This page was last updated: April 14, 2014

         
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