What To Do For Toothpaste In Eye
Sounds like this would be hard to do. But getting toothpaste in the eye can be surprisingly easy. I know it has happened to me on a few occasions. As I use the tooth brush to brush toothpaste out of the container, some of it flicks up into my unsuspecting eye!
Should you be concerned?
Before we learn what toothpaste can actually do to the eye, there are some important steps to take care of first (if you haven’t already).
- If you are wearing contact lenses, take out the contact lenses. Contact lenses can trap chemicals onto the eye and cause damage.
- Irrigate the eyes. Ideally this would be with eye wash solution. But water will do in a pinch. You want to make sure you rinse out all the toothpaste. And once that is gone, continue irrigating to wash away any chemicals from the surface of the eye.
- Don’t rub your eyes.
After doing those steps, it is normal if the eye feels some slight irritation. Most likely you won’t have any damage to the eye. But if you do have pain or blurred vision, see a medical professional.
Ok. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s the good news:
It is difficult for the ingredients in toothpaste to cause any injury to the eye. Toothpaste contains a mixture of natural compounds and sugars and other substances. Some of these compounds are very readily tolerated by the eye. Others are at a low enough concentration to be unusual to damage the eye with accidental exposure.
So What Exactly Is In Toothpaste?
Until you get toothpaste in the eye, you probably have never really thought about what is actually in this paste or gel. But all of this becomes very important when trying to figure out if it will cause damage to your eye. Toothpaste actually isn’t all that complicated; there are only a few main ingredients.
One major ingredient is Fluoride.
Fluoride is a natural occurring mineral. It comes from soil, water, rocks, etc. Our bones and of course teeth contain this mineral. When acids in our mouth break down our teeth enamel, extra fluoride is good to replace those lost minerals. This helps prevent cavities from forming.
Fluoride isn’t just in toothpaste, it is also in the drinking water of many cities.
Too high of concentration is actually toxic, but the concentration of fluoride in both toothpaste and drinking water is low.
This is important if toothpaste (or drinking water containing fluoride) is exposed to the eye. The low concentration of fluoride really won’t do much to the eye. If you happen to expose your eye to fluoride salts or even worse, hyperfluoric acid, you are more than likely to cause severe damage.
But fortunately, toothpaste unlikely.
How does brushing the teeth actually work? It’s very much a manual process. Using toothbrush with additives to help your breath smell minty fresh is great, but the main mechanism of brushing the teeth is using bristles to scrape food particles off our teeth. Abrasives help make the toothbrush work better.
The most common abrasive in toothpaste is calcium carbonate. You may recognize this from your elementary school geology days. This is stuff found in rocks, especially limestone. In a way you are kinda brushing your teeth with rocks! (you’ll never think about toothpaste the same way again…)
But this rock powder helps the brushing get in every nook and cranny of the teeth to help remove difficult plaque and stains on the surface of our teeth.
Calcium carbonate isn’t the only abrasive in toothpaste. Different types of toothpaste (such as those for sensitive teeth) have different abrasives. Some toothpastes are more “abrasive” than others.
You can actually test this out with your toothpaste and a piece of tin foil. If you use your finger and rub your toothpaste on tin foil, the more abrasive ones will actually leave small scratches in the tin foil.
If abrasives can scratch tin foil, you’d better believe that it can wreck havoc if you start to rub toothpaste into the eye.
On the surface of our cornea is a thin layer of cells called epithelium. This serves as the “skin” of the eye. But this is a very delicate layer. It will scratch easily. And when it scratches, it will cause pain!
If you get toothpaste in the eye and rub it in, the abrasives can scratch the eye.
Sorbitol and Glycerin
How does toothpaste get its smooth texture? Sorbitol and Glycerin. Both of these are types of sugars (and can make the toothpaste taste a little sweeter as a result).
Interestingly enough, both sorbitol and glycerin are used in artificial tears for the eyes. Glycerin is actually the main ingredient in many artificial tears. Similar to how these compounds make the toothpaste smooth, it will do the same to the artificial tear drop allowing it to last longer on the surface of the eye.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Nothing feels more satisfying than the foamy cleaning action of toothpaste. This foaming actually comes from an added chemical that is common to many soaps and cleaners.
This chemical works as a surfactant. What that means is it breaks up oils so that they can be washed away. When you are washing your pots and pans with Dawn dish soap, sodium lauryl sulfate binds with that troublesome grease to allow water to wash it all away.
Not a ton of grease in the teeth, but the foamy property of sodium lauryl sulfate can still be satisfying.
If sodium lauryl sulfate gets into the eye, it will cause damage if concentrated or if left to sit and not washed off the eye (allowing the surfactant to break down the surface of the eye).
So while the toothpaste foam can injury the eye, it really can only happen if you don’t wash it off.
You may be surprised to hear that toothpaste isn’t naturally minty flavored. It’s added to the toothpaste. Mint isn’t the only flavor; if you want to get really crazy, you can also find cinnamon, strawberry or even watermelon flavored toothpaste! (may help get the kids to brush their teeth).
Flavorings come with the risk of being allergic to the flavoring. Rare, but can happen.
And with this comes the possibility of having allergies in the eye if this toothpaste flavoring gets in the eye.
But overall unlikely that you would develop allergies from a random event such as getting toothpaste in the eye but not normally have allergies from the toothpaste.
We all love those radiant white teeth. And toothpaste has come through with ways to provide those pearly whites.
Some whitening toothpastes use the abrasives mentioned above to help clean surface stains better. But others employ the use of peroxides such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide.
Hydrogen peroxide is a weak acid. Thus, toothpastes that contain these peroxides can be acidic. (There is actually quite a wide range of the pH of teeth-whitening toothpaste, some are pretty acidic while others can be pretty neutral)
Acids will cause injuries to the eyes. Any surface the acid is in contact with will become damaged. The longer the acid is in contact with that surface (and also the stronger the acid), the more damage there is. As the acid damages the eye, it will cause pain and can cause blurry vision as well.
Toothpaste can be acidic, but there are most definitely worse acids you can get in the eye.
Unless you get a lot of toothpaste on the eye, rub it in or let it sit on the eye, it will be hard to cause damage to the eye. Now this isn’t a free pass to get toothpaste in the eye. But it is reassuring that brushing our teeth doesn’t carry a huge risk of inadvertently damaging our eyes.
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