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This Dentist Went Viral After Demonstrating How Much Toothpaste You Actually Need When Brushing

Why did I not know this earlier?!

Dr. Gao Jye Teh is a Malaysian-based dentist who — like a lot of people — decided to download TikTok during the COVID-19 lockdown earlier this year. "I found myself retaining information I learned from watching TikToks easily because it was often conveyed in short, digestible, and entertaining ways. It got me thinking, ‘What if I could spread dental awareness in this memorable way, too?’ So, I gave it a shot," Dr. Gao told BuzzFeed.

And he has been very successful at doing just that! In his latest TikTok — which went viral with over 6 million views — Dr. Gao demonstrated what the proper amount of toothpaste looks like:

So, how much do you actually need? People over 3 years of age only need the amount of a SINGLE PEA!

Photo of a single pea on a plate.

That's right! Although this toothpaste swish is perfection, it is FAR TOO MUCH.

Photo of a toothbrush with a big dollop of toothpaste.

"Kids under age 3 only need a smear of toothpaste. The ‘little’ amount is attributed to the fact that they might have trouble not swallowing the excess fluoride toothpaste," explained Dr. Gao.

Photo of Dr. Gao holding a toothbrush from his TikTok.

Dr. Gao emphasized that using more than the recommended amount of toothpaste is most detrimental to children whose adult teeth are still developing under their gums. "This is because fluoride, when ingested in large amounts, can cause a cosmetic condition known as dental fluorosis on the developing teeth. The cosmetic implications range from mild discoloration to yellow and brown stains to obvious pits in the teeth," he said.

Dr. Gao demonstrating that the amount of toothpaste shown in commercials is way too much.

However, if too little toothpaste is used, your teeth will not benefit from the full protective properties of the fluoride. "Once you brush your teeth, you should spit out the excess and not rinse your mouth with water. This is because the fluoride in the toothpaste takes time to act on your teeth," explained Dr. Gao.

Dr. Gao said when it comes to mouthwash, he recommends using one that contains fluoride at a time separate from brushing. "Doing this will increase the amount of fluoride exposure, helping with the remineralization of your teeth. There are many variations of mouthwash out there – some specialized for treating gum disease, some for dealing with dry mouths, and some that contain alcohol. Seek advice from your dentist to decide which type you are most suited for."

We also asked Dr. Gao if all toothpastes were essentially the same or if there is a certain type he recommends. "Toothpaste is like shampoo. If you think about it as a product to clean your teeth — just as shampoo cleans your hair — then, yes, all toothpaste serves this purpose. However, if you’re looking to treat a specific condition, such as gum disease, then certainly some types of toothpastes are able to do so more than others by virtue of their ingredients," he explained.

We also wanted to know if whitening toothpastes really works. "Whitening toothpaste was historically created to remove tough stains from the teeth of smokers. Over time, more gentle formulations were created and marketed for general use. Depending on the ingredients, some are quite effective at removing tough stains. However, it is important to understand that whitening toothpaste only removes tough stains, which gives the illusion of whiter teeth. There is currently no scientific literature that proves it lightens the shade of teeth, despite claims made by some brands that it does," he said.

Photo of toothpaste and question mark.

Lastly, Dr. Gao said many people are misguided when it comes to caring for their teeth because they don't see their dental health the same way as they see their overall health. "A good example is how patients view bleeding on different parts of their body. If their eyes were to bleed, many people would go to a hospital immediately. But, if their gums bleed, many people would just shrug it off, when, in actuality, bleeding gums are an early sign of gum disease," he said.

Selfie Dr. Gao took in elevator.

Dr. Gao said he has been touched by the number of people who have told him their perception of dentistry has changed since watching his videos. He is happy to help others start implementing his dentistry lessons into their everyday lifestyle.

To see more of Dr. Gao's dental advice, you can follow him on TikTok and Instagram.