Trying to choose toothpaste from the wall of toothpaste at the grocery store can be intimidating. With all of the different types and brands you may be confused as to which one to purchase. Choosing a toothpaste shouldn’t be this hard, and it doesn’t have to be. We’re here to make it simple.
No matter which brand, the goal of your toothpaste is to deliver fluoride to your teeth. There are many different ingredients in toothpastes, but they all fit into 8 categories of ingredients:
Fluoride: Fluoride is found in toothpaste in the form of Sodium Fluoride. It helps prevent tooth decay by providing the fluoride to help remineralize and strengthen your enamel.
Water: Water is the base for the toothpaste.
Flavor, Sweeteners, and Dyes: These are used to make the toothpaste look and taste favorably. Common sweeteners are: glycerine, sorbitol, and sodium saccharine.
Thickeners: These materials, when added to water create the paste texture that provides the best delivery system for the fluoride. Common thickener agents include: cellulose gum and xanthan gum.
pH correctors: As their name suggests, pH correctors correct the pH balance of the toothpaste to create an alkaline (or basic) environment. This helps neutralize the acids in your mouth that are produced by decay causing bacteria. Sodium hydroxide is most often used for this purpose.
Abradants: Although most bacteria are removed mechanically with your toothbrush, these abrasive agents are added to toothpastes to provide additional cleaning power and to help remove surface stains. Common abradants are: hydrated silica, titanium dioxide, and mica.
Mixing agents: These include emulsifiers and surfactants which help give the toothpaste a uniform consistency by keeping the different ingredients mixed together. There is a wide range of mixing agents that are used in toothpastes, including propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol, and cocamidopropyl betaine.
Detergents: The foam that forms when you brush your teeth is a result of the detergents in your toothpaste. The most common detergent is sodium lauryl sulfate.
Most toothpastes contain at least one ingredient from each category, although there are some that only contain ingredients from a couple of categories – most often leaving out detergents.
Sensitivity toothpastes contain potassium nitrate as a desensitizing ingredient. This helps calm the nerve and prevents the transmission of painful stimuli. If you suffer from sensitivity when whitening, these toothpastes will help. For long term issues with tooth sensitivity it is best to discuss with your dentist to verify there isn’t a more serious underlying cause for your sensitivity.
Whitening pastes often contain more abradants than normal toothpaste to aid in removing stains. If you do use whitening toothpaste, it is best to use them in conjunction with a fluoride mouthrinse. The mouth rinse will help remineralize your enamel after brushing. Additionally, take special care to wait a half hour after eating when using whitening toothpaste as the acidic environment created after eating would add to any enamel erosion that may be caused by the additional abrasive qualities of whitening toothpaste.
There are some prescription strength fluoride toothpaste that contains more fluoride than over the counter products. These toothpaste are recommended for patients who are at a higher risk for dental caries. If you believe that you would benefit from prescription strength toothpaste, speak to your dentist.
These are often referred to as training toothpastes, as they are best used for small children who swallow their toothpaste. Additionally, fluoride free toothpaste can be used to encourage kids to brush their teeth. The fruity flavors and foaming action makes toothbrushing time more fun.
Our Evanston dentists do not recommend fluoride free toothpaste for adults, as the main benefit for toothpaste is to supply fluoride for your teeth.
You may notice that we have not named a specific brand of toothpaste for you to use. This is because any fluoride toothpaste is good toothpaste. Let us know in the comments if you have a favorite toothpaste and why. Brushing your teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste is one of the best steps you can take to ensure good oral health.