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When you think about large enterprise software systems with screen after screen full of data entry forms, with drop down lists everywhere, every single one of those drop down selectors is likely a database table. Every schema like that will have a mix of large tables (customers, products, etc) and lots of small tables.

I don’t think there’s a number above which you should not go, it’s really about how the data is organized and how easy it is to get data in and out of. I agree with another comment here about looking at anti-patterns first. There are some common ones that would be red flags.

As an example of what not to do: I once worked with a DBA who insisted that tables shouldn’t have more than 15 columns. So any table with more than 15 columns would have to be split into multiple tables, even if those tables would always have to be fetched together.

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