Toothpaste is something we encounter (hopefully) a couple times a day, and while we brush our teeth with it and occasionally may swallow a little, we tend to not really think about how toxic it is. With that in mind, you might be surprised to learn that if you should decide to eat a whole lot of toothpaste, you’re probably going to have a really, really bad day.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, if you happen to swallow a whole bunch of toothpaste that doesn’t contain fluoride, you’ll survive, but you might develop a wicked stomachache. You should still drink a lot of water or milk, and don’t induce vomiting, and you’ll most likely be okay because non-fluoride toothpaste is non-toxic. However, you should still contact the National Poison Control Center, a hotline that will connect you to a poison expert, by dialing 1-800-222-1222.
If you swallow a lot of toothpaste that does contain fluoride, however, then you’ve got a problem. The Poison Control Center should be called immediately (make sure you know exactly how much toothpaste was consumed in order to help them out). Fluoride is poisonous in high quantities, and if you swallow a large amount of it, side effects may include stomach pain, intestinal blockage, convulsions, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, drooling, shock, tremors, weakness, vomiting, and heart attack. Water or milk is a good first line of defense, but then it’s most likely time to go to the emergency room, where you’ll receive activated charcoal to prevent the rest of the poison from being absorbed, calcium as an antidote to the poison, and a whole host of tests and fluids.
If you swallow the amount of toothpaste used to brush your teeth, you’re most likely going to be fine. But if you (or more likely, your child) downs a whole tube of the stuff, you definitely have good reason to worry.