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Toothpaste overdose

Definition

Toothpaste is a product used to clean teeth. This article discusses the effects of swallowing a lot of toothpaste.

This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.

Poisonous Ingredient

Poisonous ingredients include:

  • Sodium fluoride
  • Triclosan

Where Found

Ingredients are found in:

  • 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 Care

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

Poison Control

Your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. This 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.

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 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. A breathing machine (ventilator) would then be needed.
  • Calcium (an antidote), to reverse the effect of the poison.
  • Chest x-ray.
  • 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 (rare) into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage).

Outlook (Prognosis)

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.

References

Kulig K. General approach to the poisoned patient. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 147.

Tinanoff N. Dental caries. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 312.

Review Date:11/28/2016
Reviewed By:Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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