Toothpaste and Air Travel - Key Takeaways
- Toothpaste is considered a liquid by the TSA
- Toothpaste can be included in your carry-on luggage in a container that is 3.4oz (100ml) or smaller and abides by other 3-1-1 rules. You cannot bring a regular or full size tube of toothpaste in your carry-on.
- Toothpaste, regardless of container size, can be placed inside checked luggage.
- It is the size of the toothpaste tube that matters, not the amount of toothpaste in the tube.
- Know the difference between ounces as they refer to volume or weight. TSA refers to 3.4oz (100ml) as volume, not weight.
- Prescription toothpaste that is a medical necessity is allowed through TSA in quantities greater than 3.4oz (100ml).
- Consider toothpaste tablets as a hassle-free alternative when flying.
- TSA may remove the 3-1-1 rule in the future
By understanding how the TSA regulations apply to toothpaste, you can make sure your travel is hassle-free. Following these rules will help you avoid delays and hassles at security checkpoints when flying.
As long as you follow the guidelines in this article, you will probably not have any trouble getting through airport security. Always remember that information included here or anywhere else on the internet is only a recommendation. It is up to the discretion of each individual TSA agent on what may or may not pass-through the checkpoint.
What does the TSA say about toothpaste?
For carry-on luggage, the Transportation Security Administration states each passenger is allowed to bring liquids, gels and aerosols in containers of 3.4oz (100ml) or smaller, as part of the 3-1-1 rule. This includes toothpaste.
In general, you should consider that anything poured, scooped, squeezed, slurped, or mashed will be considered a liquid by TSA.
For checked bags, the TSA allows larger containers of liquids, gels, and aerosols as long as they are properly labeled. A regular or full-size tube of toothpaste can be placed inside checked luggage. See the screenshot below from the TSA’s website.
If you’re not already a follower on the TSA’s Instagram account, it’s worth taking some time to check out. They post some very interesting, punny, and educational posts regularly. For example, here’s a screenshot of one related to toothpaste and air travel.
What is the 3-1-1 rule?
The 3-1-1 liquids rule states, “Each passenger may carry liquids, gels, and aerosols in travel-size containers that are 3.4 ounces (100ml). Each passenger is limited to one quart-size bag of liquids, gels, and aerosols. Common travel items that must comply with the 3-1-1 liquids rule include toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash, and lotion.”
In short, pack your toothpaste in a 3.4oz (100ml) or smaller container, pack your mouthwash in a 3.4 oz (100ml) or smaller container, and pack your shampoo in a 3.4oz (100ml) or smaller container. Place all of these items in a 1 quarter or smaller ziplock bag and you may bring them through the TSA checkpoint.
TSA does not specify if the containers have to be screwed on, resealable, glass or plastic. There are a variety of TSA-compliant containers you can purchase on Amazon. Additionally, many manufacturers create TSA-compliant specific tubes which you can purchase.
How to pack toothpaste in your carry-on luggage
The easiest way to pack toothpaste in your carry-on luggage is to buy a TSA-compliant one made by the manufacturer and then include it in your quart size bag. This is easier than purchasing an entirely separate container and trying to fill it from the bottle you have at home.
Below are links to several popular toothpaste brands in TSA-compliant packaging.
- Colgate Optic White 3.2oz (Pack of 3)
- Sensodyne Complete Protection 3.4 oz (Pack of 2)
- Crest Multi-Benefit + Scope 2.7oz (Pack of 3)
- See more TSA-compliant toothpaste
Why is toothpaste not allowed on planes?
To be clear, toothpaste is allowed on planes - toothpaste in containers greater than 3.4oz are not allowed in carry-on bags. The reason the TSA restricts how much toothpaste passengers can bring on planes is because it could potentially be used to make explosive devices.
This is why the 3-1-1 liquids rule exists: to ensure no liquids, gels, and aerosols over 3.4oz are brought into airplane cabins as they could be used to create a dangerous explosive.
How to pack toothpaste in your checked luggage
Toothpaste can be packed into your checked luggage as normal. Simply ensure that the toothpaste is in its original tube and pack it in your bag. You do not want to have any substance in an unmarked container, else your luggage could be subject to additional screening.
There are no restrictions on container size or the quantity of toothpaste tubes you can travel with.
We’d recommend placing your toothpaste in a clear plastic bag or toiletry bag to prevent it from oozing out into other parts of your luggage. Temperature and pressure changes may move your toothpaste around in the event the cap gets jostled loose while in transit.
How much toothpaste do I need to pack?
A single 3.4oz tube of toothpaste will be adequate for at least a week of travel for most people. Even for those heavily focused on tooth care and may brush several times a day, a single 3.4oz tube will last at least a week if not longer.
Only for trips longer than 2 weeks should you consider bringing an additional tube of toothpaste.
It’s also worth considering that you can purchase another tube of toothpaste at your destination or use solid toothpaste tablets, which we’ll cover in a later section.
3.4oz - How to tell the difference between volume and weight
3.4 ounces is not always the exact same as 3.4 fluid ounces, but they’re close. While both represent a unit of measurement, ‘ounces’ by itself represents a weight. ‘Fluid ounces’ measures and represents a volume. For example, you may need 6 ounces of flour for a recipe, while you may also need 6 fluid ounces of milk.
For the purpose of air travel, the TSA is referring to the ‘fluid ounces’ measurement, even though they don’t explicitly state it. You’ll see almost all toothpaste tubes list the contents of their toothpaste in ‘ounces’ as in a weight.
Could this cause TSA to ask you to throw your toothpaste away? In theory, yes, but it is highly unlikely.
The true difference lies in the densities of the materials you’re measuring. 6 fluid ounces of water will weigh 6 ounces. However, 6 fluid ounces of toothpaste may not weigh 6 ounces. It depends entirely on the make up of the toothpaste.
We’re splitting hairs here. TSA isn’t going to check the density of your toothpaste nor is going to give you a hard time as long as you have a travel size tube of toothpaste. In reality, the absolute worst thing that could happen is you’re asked to throw it away before going through the checkpoint. If that happens, get to your destination, buy a new tube, problem solved.
Is prescription toothpaste allowed through TSA security?
According to the TSA website, “TSA will allow larger amounts of medically necessary liquids, gels, and aerosols in reasonable quantities for your trip, but you must declare them to TSA officers at the checkpoint for inspection.”
Under this definition, this would include prescription toothpastes like:
- Colgate PreviDent 5000 Boster Plus Prescription Strength
- Clinpro 5000 Toothpaste
These are toothpastes that have an increased amount of fluoride compared to over-the-counter options. You will need a prescription from your dentist for these and it’s recommended to bring that prescription with you when you travel.
Talk with your dentist prior to travel to get an updated prescription if possible. Some retailers offer prescription toothpaste in 3.4oz (100ml) bottles, like:
Prescription mouthwash will fall under this same category.
Solid toothpaste and other alternatives
Another option to consider is solid toothpaste tablets. These consist of a tablet that you place on a wet toothbrush and then brush as you would normally.
These are usually made of natural ingredients, meant to provide the same cleaning power as conventional toothpastes, and are quite affordable. These are not under the 3-1-1 liquids rule since they’re not liquids or gels and you can bring as many as you want.
Alternatively, you could use a Crest Scope (formerly Crest Wisp). These are single-use toothbrushes that are pre-pasted and include a floss pick and tongue scraper. They are each individually sealed in packs of 2.
Lastly, another option to consider is toothpaste powder. It’s a dry powder that you mix with water and use normally to brush your teeth with. Again, like the toothpaste tablets, since it’s a solid, it’s not bound by the 3-1-1 liquids rule and you can bring as much as you would like.
Does toothpaste count as a liquid for TSA?
Yes, toothpaste counts as liquid when going through a security checkpoint. Each person is allowed up to 3.4oz (100ml) of liquids in their carry-on bag when traveling domestically within the United States.
Can you bring toothpaste on a plane?
Yes, you can bring toothpaste on a plane, although it must abide by the 3-1-1 guidelines for liquids.
How much toothpaste can you bring on a plane?
You can bring up to 3.4oz (100ml) of toothpaste on a plane in your carry-on bag. Any amount larger than that must be checked with your luggage.
Can I bring prescription toothpaste on a plane?
Yes, you can bring prescription toothpaste on a plane as long as it is within the 3.4oz (100ml) limit for liquids and you have a valid prescription from your dentist. It’s recommended to bring the prescription with you when traveling as an extra precaution.
Are there alternatives to bringing toothpaste on a plane?
Yes, there are alternatives to bringing toothpaste on a plane, such as solid toothpaste, toothpaste tablets, and pre-packaged toothpaste.
Is toothpaste considered a liquid when flying?
Yes, toothpaste is considered a liquid when flying and must be within the 3.4oz (100ml) limit for liquids in order to bring it in your carry-on bag. Any amount larger than that must be checked with your luggage.
Can I brush my teeth on a plane?
Yes, you can brush your teeth on a plane. It’s best to use water sparingly when brushing your teeth in order to avoid spilling it onto other passengers or the plane itself. If you can’t wait until you land, you may want to use a disposable toothbrush that has been pre-pasted, or a Crest Wisp, which requires no water.
1. Transportation Security Administration. (n.d.-a). Medications (liquid). Transportation Security Administration. Retrieved December 26, 2022, from https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/items/medications-liquid
2. Transportation Security Administration. (n.d.-b). Toothpaste. Transportation Security Administration. Retrieved December 26, 2022, from https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/items/toothpaste
3. Transportation Security Administration. (n.d.-c). What is the 3-1-1 liquids rule? Transportation Security Administration. Retrieved December 26, 2022, from https://www.tsa.gov/travel/frequently-asked-questions/what-3-1-1-liquids-rule
4. Transportation Security Administration. (2021, July 9). Travel Tips & Dad Joke Hits on Instagram: “@dudewithsign – That’s no Rembrandt of a sign. You put that sign like a Crest on your head and got all Sensodyne about toothpaste. Gleem this info, just make your Colgate 3.4oz or less in carry-on. You’ll be feeling Aquafresh on your flight and at your destination(s). #TSA #TravelTips101 #ToothPaste #SetTheRecordStraight #DudeWithSign.” Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/p/CRHcbmnsTHM/?hl=en