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So Many Choices! Narrowing Down Toothpaste Options

Choosing a tube of toothpaste might seem like an easy task, but it is much more complicated than you think. There are toothpastes formulated for whitening your teeth, fighting plaque and tooth sensitivity, just to name a few. What choice is the right one for you and your oral health? Read on for tips on how to make an informed decision in the toothpaste aisle.

Common Ingredients

Regardless of the type of toothpaste you choose, there are some common ingredients among most toothpaste brands and formulas on the market.

  • Toothpastes contain abrasive agents, such as calcium carbonate and silicates, which help remove food, bacteria and some stains from your teeth.
  • Flavoring and/or sweetener is often added to toothpaste to make them taste good. While most people think of mint when they think of toothpaste, the truth is that toothpastes are available in other flavors, such as cinnamon and even bubblegum!
  • Most toothpastes also contain humectants, such as glycerol, for moisture retention. This prevents the toothpaste from drying out in the tube.
  • Thickeners are also common ingredients in toothpastes. These substances, including gums and sticky molecules found in some seaweeds, are responsible for maintaining the texture of the toothpaste.
  • Toothpastes often contain detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate to create the suds you see when you brush.

Fluoride: The Most Important Ingredient

Fluoride is by far the most important ingredient to look for when selecting the type of toothpaste that is right for you. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that helps remove plaque and is crucial in the prevention of tooth decay. Fluoride helps protects your teeth from the acid that is released when bacteria feed on the food remnants that remain on your teeth after you eat or drink. It also strengthens your tooth enamel and can even reverse some of the damage done by these acids. It is very important to remember that brushing with a fluoride tooth paste is still important even if you live in an area where the water is fluoridated.

ADA Seal of Acceptance

No matter what toothpaste brand or formula you are looking at, make sure that it has the ADA Seal of Acceptance.  The American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance is proof that the toothpaste was evaluated by an independent review board of scientific experts, and that it is safe and effective.  All toothpastes with an ADA Seal of Acceptance have fluoride, and we all know how important that is in your quest for the right toothpaste!

Your Specific Dental Health Needs and Goals

Almost all toothpastes are specially formulated for certain things, so in order to make sure you are getting the most out of your toothpaste, it’s important to talk to your dentist about your specific oral health situation. Your dentist is the best source for toothpaste recommendations and can help you determine which toothpaste is right for you.  To get the conversation started with your dentist, the following is a list of the most common types of toothpastes on the market:

  • Whitening Toothpastes. These toothpastes typically contain abrasive particles or chemicals that polish and help pull surface stains off your teeth.  While whitening toothpastes can effectively remove extrinsic stains (surface stains and discoloration caused by coffee, wine, soda and other highly pigmented foods and beverages), they can’t change the natural color of your teeth or lighten stains than go deeper than the enamel of your teeth. For these intrinsic stains, you’ll need to talk to your dentist about either using over-the-counter whitening strips or getting professional treatments at the dental office.
  • Tartar Control Toothpastes. Plaque build-up can harden into tartar, and these toothpastes are specially formulated to combat plaque build-up and prevent hard-to-remove tartar from forming.  Tartar can build up on your teeth and under your gums, and if left untreated, can ultimately lead to gum disease.  Tartar control toothpastes contain chemical compounds, including pyrophosphates and zinc citrate, which been proven effective in fighting plaque and build-up.  Some tartar control toothpastes also contain triclosan, an antibiotic that helps to kill bacteria on your teeth and gums.
  • Toothpastes for Sensitive Teeth.  These toothpastes are formulated to help reduce tooth sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures.  The chemical compounds in these toothpastes can help block pathways that are connected to the nerves within your teeth, relieving pain and sensitivity. It is important to remember, however, that it may take up to four weeks of use for you to feel relief while eating or drinking hot and/or cold foods and beverages.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to picking a toothpaste that not only suits your specific oral healthcare needs, but is also enjoyable to use. It might sound a bit odd to talk about enjoying brushing your teeth, but let’s be honest – you’re much more likely to brush your teeth for the recommended two minutes twice per day if you actually like the taste and feel of your toothpaste!

And there really is something for everyone. If you and your family are committed to an all-natural lifestyle, you can choose an ADA-approved toothpaste that only contains all-natural ingredients. If you’re trying to establish good oral hygiene habits for your kids, there are toothpastes that come in cool flavors and textures that will help make brushing fun. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the different options, remember that your dentist is here to help you find the right toothpaste for you and your family.