Choosing a Toothpaste

With the countless brands and formulations of toothpaste available on the market today, it can be difficult to know which one is right for you or your family.  In order to pick the right one, you have to know some things about your own oral health and about common toothpaste ingredients.

Understanding Your Own Oral Health

In order to know which ingredients you should look for in a toothpaste, you first need to know what risk factors you have.  Are you high risk for gum disease?  Do you tend to get cavities easily?  Are your teeth sensitive from receding gums?

The easiest way to answer these questions is by having a thorough dental evaluation with one of our wonderful dentists at Premier Dental of Ohio.  We know that each person has unique risks and needs; we do not treat all people alike.  As we assess your areas of risk, we can guide you into how to lower those risks and take the best care of your teeth.

Here are some important things you need to know when picking out a toothpaste.

  • What is your cavity risk?
  • Do you have a lot of dental work in your mouth, including fillings, crowns, and bridges?
  • Are your teeth discolored from drinking coffee, tea, soda, and red wine or using tobacco?
  • Do you have receding gums?
  • Are any of your teeth sensitive?
  • Is the inside of your mouth sensitive to harsh chemicals? Does “normal” toothpaste make the lining of your lips, cheeks and tongue burn or sting?

Why Do We Use Toothpaste?

One thing people typically misunderstand about toothpaste is what it actually does.  Many think that toothpaste removes plaque and the bacteria that cause gum disease and cavities.  The truth is that we can remove plaque and bacteria with a toothbrush and a little water.  It is the mechanical action of the bristles against the teeth and gums that cleans plaque and bacteria away.

The toothpaste itself does not remove the plaque!

We use toothpaste to carry certain helpful ingredients to the teeth.  These ingredients have various purposes, which is why you need to know your specific areas of risk in order to pick the right one.

Common Toothpaste Ingredients and Their Purposes

In this section we will describe the most common or most important toothpaste ingredients, and how they can improve or worsen certain oral conditions.

Fluoride

This is one of the most important toothpaste ingredients because of its ability to fight cavities.  Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that incorporates into tooth enamel, making it stronger and more resistant to the attacks of bacteria that cause cavities.  By using a fluoride toothpaste every day, you are applying tiny amounts of this mineral to the teeth.

In addition to fighting cavities and strengthening enamel, fluoride also helps reduce tooth sensitivity.  If your teeth are sensitive to cold or sweets, make sure your toothpaste contains fluoride!

Opponents of fluoride claim that it is a dangerous toxin that you must avoid at all costs.  The truth is that fluoride can be toxic if you ingest (eat or drink) it in extremely high levels.  Countless scientific research studies show that in small amounts, there is no risk of dangerous health problems with fluoride use.  This is why using a toothpaste that contains the American Dental Association’s Seal of Approval is so important.  This seal means the toothpaste passed tests regarding the appropriate amount of fluoride and any other ingredient people may question.  The seal shows that a toothpaste is safe for everyday use!

Detergents (like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate)

If you ever use a toothpaste without a detergent, you will notice something different immediately: it does not foam!  Detergents are what create the bubbly, foaming action of toothpaste.  It can give the illusion of better cleaning ability, but technically, it does not improve plaque removal.

Some detergents are too harsh for sensitive oral tissues, so if you have a tendency toward mouth sores and ulcers or suffer from autoimmune disorders, you may want to avoid detergents in your toothpaste.

Sweeteners (like Xylitol)

Most toothpastes add flavoring agents to improve the taste.  Of course, they do not add sugar to toothpaste, as that would be completely counterproductive!  They use sugar alcohols, though, which can actually be good for you.  Xylitol is a sugar alcohol sweetening agent that actually kills bacteria in the mouth.  This means xylitol in toothpaste can actually lower your risk for cavities and gum disease.

Potassium Nitrate

Potassium nitrate is one of the active ingredients in Sensodyne toothpaste, which is probably the best-known toothpaste for fighting sensitivity.  This ingredient works to calm hyperactive and hypersensitive nerves inside the teeth.  It does take a few weeks to fully kick in, so do not expect immediate results!

Nanohydroxyapatite

This is an exciting, new toothpaste ingredient currently available online from both Canada and Japan.  Hydroxyapatite is the mineral structure of tooth enamel.  Nanohydroxyapatite is a bioavailable form shown to absorb into the enamel and “remineralize” or rebuild it in areas of weakness.  Its ability to remineralize makes it a wonderful choice for anyone with a high risk for cavities or sensitive teeth.

Whitening Toothpastes in General

Whitening toothpastes give teeth a brighter, whiter appearance by polishing away external stains that accumulate over time.  They do this by using tiny abrasive particles, and when you brush them onto the teeth, they have a mild sandpaper effect.  Whitening toothpastes with the ADA’s Seal of Approval passed the test of being safe to polish away only external stains and NOT tooth enamel.

Whitening toothpastes, however, can do damage to exposed roots of teeth.  If you have receding gums, which exposes your tooth roots, you should NOT use whitening toothpastes.  Roots do not have a protective coating of enamel, and they are much softer.  This means you can remove root structure by using an abrasive toothpaste.

Inactive Ingredients

There are many other inactive ingredients in toothpaste, which means they are present to aid the physical properties of the toothpaste without having any effect on the teeth and gums themselves.  They may keep the toothpaste from drying out or separating into its various components.

More Toothpaste Questions?

Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a consultation with our dentists.  We can answer any toothpaste question you have and help you select the one that is right for you!