Pea-Size or Rice-Size: The Ideal Amount of Toothpaste to Use Each Time You Brush

Ever noticed a change in current toothpaste ads? They no longer suggest covering the full length of your brush with a thick squeeze of toothpaste. And for a good reason: we all know that it’s just too much for one use. In fact, that might be more than enough for two days’ worth of brushing.

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the right amount of toothpaste to use each time you brush is just a smear. A small dab about the size of a pea. For children younger than 4 years, it should be as little as a grain of rice. This is to ensure that you’re getting the proper amount of cavity protection and decay-fighting agents without overexposing yourself to harmful chemicals.

Hand holding solid toothpaste tablet

How much is too much?

A study conducted by the University of Washington found that a pea-size amount of toothpaste weighs around 0.4 g. But what if you want to double the protection and cleaning power—should you put twice as much as recommended? No. Proper oral care doesn’t work that way. It takes a consistent habit of brushing and flossing every day to make sure that your teeth are strong and healthy.

So if for example you want to have a brighter smile fast, there’s no need to double the amount of whiteners on your brush to accelerate the whitening effect. You’ll only double the stinging sensation in your mouth while wasting much of the product. Doing things like this can do more harm than good, especially if you’re using fluoride toothpaste.

Effects of using too much fluoride toothpaste

Excessive use of fluoride from an early age can lead to dental fluorosis, a condition where white streaks or spots stain your teeth. What’s worse is that the effects can increase if you get fluoride from multiple sources like supplements and fluoridated water aside from toothpaste.

Young children are at greater risk because they ingest more toothpaste when brushing. The same University of Washington research found that 2-year-olds swallow about two-thirds of the toothpaste they use every time they brush, while 7-year-olds ingest about one-third. This is why the rice-grain-size amount is recommended for toddlers’ teeth.

A safer zero-waste toothpaste alternative

There are options that can help you ensure that you’re using the ideal amount of product without leaving leftovers or exposing yourself to harsh chemicals.

Fluoride-free toothpaste tablets can solve both health and environmental issues that traditional toothpaste poses. Most solid dentifrices come in the size of a pea and give the same cleaning and freshening benefits you usually get from regular toothpaste.

But whichever form you prefer, always remember to only use the recommended quantity on your teeth. You’d want to get the most out of your dental care products, not spit most of them down the drain.


MOUTHFUL strives to promote better understanding of sustainable dental health and oral hygiene practices. While we seek credible sources and cite them in our posts, this article does not intend to stand as professional advice. Please reach out to your dentist or a medical expert if you have questions regarding a health condition or treatment.

Leave a comment