For some children, brushing their teeth can be more than a good hygiene practice, it can be an opportunity to snack on some tasty toothpaste. Children's toothpaste often tastes like bubblegum or candy, so the temptation to eat toothpaste can be considerable. While swallowing a small amount of toothpaste is generally considered safe, ingesting large amounts can cause stomach pain, possible intestinal blockage or other problems, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Here are some tips that might help children break the habit of eating toothpaste:
The best way to prevent your child from eating toothpaste is to apply just the right amount to his toothbrush yourself, while keeping the container away from him when he is not brushing his teeth. Try placing it in a high cabinet out of his reach, or locking it away with other medicines.
You should also ensure that your child spits out the toothpaste instead of swallowing it each time he brushes, and that he thoroughly rinses his mouth with clean, fresh water afterward to remove the toothpaste residue. The amount of toothpaste used in brushing is safe to swallow, but this will reinforce the idea that toothpaste is not meant to be eaten.
Switching to a stronger, mint-flavored toothpaste, rather than candy-flavored varieties might also discourage eating toothpaste. Be careful, though. Stronger flavors are more suitable for older children, as younger children can be so put off by a strong mint taste that they refuse to brush or use the toothpaste at all.
Another recommendation is to brush your teeth alongside your child. Encourage him to imitate you so that he can develop good habits, such as brushing for at least two minutes, holding the brush at the correct angle, brushing his tongue, and spitting out the toothpaste when he's done.
Finally, be patient with your child. The desire to eat toothpaste is likely just a passing phase in your child's life that he will outgrow. Should your child consume a large amount of toothpaste, however, call the emergency hotline listed on the toothpaste tube or contact a poison control center immediately.