Have you ever wondered what the difference is between the various types of toothpaste available at the drug store? There are a wide range of toothpastes available today, and most of them are good for your teeth. But depending on your oral health needs, some may be better or worse.
Common toothpaste ingredients
There are a few elements that most toothpastes have in common, regardless of whether they come in gel or paste form:
- Flavoring. Virtually all toothpastes are flavored. The most common flavoring is mint, but of course there are a number of other options out there. In addition, most toothpastes also include an artificial sweetener.
- Abrasives. Tiny particles of scratching material are included in toothpastes to help remove bacteria, food, and other unwanted elements. These are usually natural compounds such as calcium carbonate.
- Detergents. The foaming aspect of toothpaste is caused by a detergent, similar to the detergents you find in other soaps and cleaning products. One of the most common is sodium dodecyl sulfate, derived from coconut or palm oil.
- Moisture retainers. Glycerol is commonly used in toothpaste to prevent it from drying out. After all, toothpaste wouldn’t be that useful if it were dried into a hard clump in the tube!
- Thickeners. Various types of food-based gums are used to make toothpaste feel thick and sticky. One of the most commonly used thickeners is actually made from seaweed.
Types of Toothpaste
Regardless of your dental needs, you should always choose a toothpaste that has the seal of the American Dental Association. This ensures that you are using a product that has been evaluated for effectiveness and safety by independent scientific researchers. After that, you can make a choice depending on your preferences. And as with any health product, if you experience unpleasant side effects from your toothpaste, you should discontinue use and try a different brand.
- Fluoride toothpaste. Almost all toothpastes these days contain fluoride: a powerful, naturally-occurring mineral that prevents cavities. Except in rare cases, you should be using a fluoride toothpaste. Certain patients also benefit from stronger, prescription-strength fluoride toothpaste, which we will discuss in your appointment if it seems like it would be helpful.
- Sensitivity control. If you have issues with tooth sensitivity, whether caused by hot or cold foods, consider one of the many desensitizing toothpastes. These block the signals being sent to the nerves in your teeth. However, make sure to mention sensitivity to your dentist, as this can be a sign of additional issues that should be treated.
- Antigingivitis. Don’t forget about your gums! If they are swollen or sore, you may benefit from an antigingivitis toothpaste. This helps to fight the bacteria responsible for gum disease and may reduce the need for more intensive treatment down the road.
- Tartar prevention. These toothpastes help to prevent hardened plaque from building up on your teeth. That said, tartar-fighting toothpaste is no replacement for regular dental visits. A professional cleaning is the only way to remove tartar that has built up on your teeth already.
- Whitening. Whitening toothpastes include a mild bleaching agent to remove minor discolorations from your teeth.
- Total/Complete. These all-in-one brands combine several of the features discussed above.
- Fowler, C. et al. (2006). “In vitro microhardness studies on a new anti-erosion desensitizing toothpaste.” Journal of Clinical Dentistry.
- Hooper, S.M. et al. (2007). “The protective effects of toothpaste against erosion by orange juice: Studies in situ and in vitro.” Journal of Dentistry.
- Twetman, S. et al. (2003). “Caries‐preventive effect of fluoride toothpaste: a systematic review.” Acta Odontologica Scandinavica.