Toothpaste – hopefully you use it at least twice a day. But have you ever thought about what is in it or what ingredients make one toothpaste different from another? Not all toothpastes are created equally. Some are granted the seal of approval from the American Dental Association, others aren’t. Whether you have a history of gum disease, cavities or a perfectly healthy mouth, learn more about what’s in toothpaste and what to look for the next time you’re browsing the dental care aisle.
Fluoride is a big deal in the world of toothpaste. While some brands don’t contain it, the mineral does a lot for your teeth when it comes to fighting cavities and providing overall strength. In order to get the stamp of approval from the ADA, a toothpaste needs to contain fluoride. Fluoride improves the durability of your teeth’s enamel, so that your teeth are better protected against bacteria, acids and other particles that can cause decay.
The mineral can also help reduce or reverse tooth decay that is already occurring. It remineralizes your teeth’s enamel, giving them a boost in the fight against decay.
Tartar is simply plaque that has had a chance to solidify and harden on the teeth. It forms when you don’t brush your teeth quickly enough after eating or drinking. Once formed, the only way to get it off of your teeth is by having a dentist scrape it off. While a toothpaste won’t remove already formed tartar, certain types can help you control it or reduce the likelihood of it forming.
Tartar-control toothpastes often contain additional ingredients beyond fluoride. Zinc citrate and pyrophosphates are two ingredients that make it difficult for plaque to harden into tartar on the teeth. Along with those two ingredients, some tartar-control toothpastes contain an antibacterial ingredient, such as triclosan, which kills bacteria in the mouth and reduces plaque and tartar.
Some toothpastes can help remove surface stains from the teeth, making them look whiter. While a toothpaste will never make your teeth as white as an in-office treatment, it can provide some benefit or help you maintain the color of your teeth after a more intense whitening treatment.
Usually, whitening toothpastes contain abrasive ingredients, such as modified silica, which scrub stains off of the outer layer teeth. Although the word abrasive might make these toothpastes sound harsh, they usually do little damage to the tooth’s enamel.
It is important to manage expectation when using a whitening toothpaste, though. Your teeth will likely not turn shades and shades whiter. If the toothpaste doesn’t get your teeth the color you are hoping for, it might be worth your time to consider other options.
If You Have Sensitive Teeth
Tooth sensitivity can be caused by a number of things, including cavities and exposed roots. In some cases, teeth are sensitive because the enamel has worn away thanks to overly vigorous brushing. One option for reducing sensitivity in the teeth is to use a toothpaste that contains de-sensitizing ingredients.
Two ingredients are commonly used in toothpastes for sensitive teeth, potassium nitrate and strontium chloride. Both work in a similar way. They seep through the enamel to the nerves below and block the nerve signals. It can take some time for the toothpastes to work and effectively reduce sensitivity, but many people feel relief after a few weeks.
What About Natural Toothpastes?
You’ve probably seen natural toothpastes on drugstore shelves, sitting there among the standard options. Natural toothpastes earn that label because they often contain different forms of the ingredients found in regular toothpastes. For example, many natural toothpastes contain ingredients that are sourced from plants, instead of from synthetic chemicals.
One other major difference between natural toothpastes and conventional pastes is that many natural pastes don’t contain fluoride. The toothpastes that don’t contain fluoride don’t get the ADA seal, but they will still clean food bits and debris off of your teeth. Some fluoride-free natural toothpastes contain ingredients found in conventional tartar control toothpastes, such as zinc nitrate.
It is possible to find a natural toothpaste with fluoride and many brands will offer both fluoride containing and fluoride-free options. If you are considering switching to a toothpaste that doesn’t contain fluoride, it can be a good idea to talk to your dentist or periodontist first, so that you have a clear understanding of what the toothpaste can and can’t do.
Dr. John Paul Gallardo and Dr. William Lamas, two periodontists practicing in the Miami area, are happy to discuss your toothpaste options with you and recommend a product that will provide the most benefit to your teeth and gums. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Gallardo and Dr. Lamas, call (305) 447-1447 today.