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Toothpaste 101: Everything You Need to Know

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Toothpaste 101: Everything You Need to Know
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Brushing your teeth with toothpaste is the cornerstone of good oral health. Toothpaste can take the form of a gel, powder, or paste that you brush onto your teeth and gums to help get rid of accumulating plaque and improve your mouth health. According to the British Dental Association (BDA), toothpaste is important to oral health because it helps to remove plaque and its bacterial buildup on teeth, and fights gum disease. Most brands also contains fluoride, which can protect tooth enamel and prevent tooth-decay.

What’s in Toothpaste?

The exact composition of different toothpastes may vary slightly depending on the benefits being touted by the particular brand (such as whitening or reducing gum inflammation). In general, it includes the following ingredients:

  • Gentle abrasives, such as magnesium carbonate, dehydrated silica gels, calcium carbonate, hydrated aluminum oxides, and phosphate salts.
  • Glycerol, sorbitol, or other so-called “humectants,” substances that keep the toothpaste from drying out.
  • Thickeners like seaweed or mineral colloids, synthetic cellulose, or natural gum to give the toothpaste a homogeneous appearance and texture.
  • Fluoride to help make tooth enamel stronger and more resistant to decay.
  • Flavoring agents that do not cause tooth decay, such as saccharin.
  • Detergents, such as sodium lauryl sarcosinate, to make the toothpaste foamy.

Picking the Right Toothpaste

With the vast number of toothpastes in a typical drugstore aisle, it can be challenging to find the right one for you. When choosing a brand, it’s important to make sure that the product is safe and will do what it claims. Products containing fluoride are regulated by the relevant country’s Food and Drug monitoring departments, since they make disease-fighting claims. These products will display a standard “drug facts” panel on the packaging; listing the active ingredients, warnings, and other relevant information. We consider toothpastes without fluoride as cosmetics and, therefore, do not fall under supervision. However, these products should still provide a list of ingredients. To avoid unregulated products, stay clear of any toothpaste that doesn’t clearly state ingredient information or is not properly labeled.

Confused toothpaste shoppers can find additional guidance by looking for the BDA or ADA (American Dental Association) seals of approval. These symbols indicate that the manufacturer has participated in a voluntary testing program to gauge the product’s safety and effectiveness. Any product containing sugar, for example, will not get the BDA or ADA seals of approval.

The Benefits of Fluoride in Toothpaste

A key ingredient in most toothpaste is fluoride. Some studies show that fluoride has broad benefits for dental health. Fluoride can heal and remineralize microscopic cavities as they form, harden the tooth surface, making it more resistant to acid, and slow down the action of acid-producing bacteria.

Fluoride Safety

According to the American Dental Association, children cannot swallow enough fluoride from toothpaste during normal brushing to cause any serious problems. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, experts recommend limiting children under age 5 to a pea-sized amount of it and supervising their brushing.

Toothpaste for Particular Tooth and Gum Conditions

No matter what your personal oral health needs are, there is a toothpaste for you. If you have sensitive teeth, look for products with ingredients such as potassium nitrate or strontium chloride. To fight gingivitis or tartar buildup, choose the one that contains pyrophosphates, triclosan, and zinc citrate. In addition, you can find products designed to combat bad breath or formulated with special abrasives to help whiten stained teeth. If you experience recurring problems, speak with your dentist for a recommendation.

If you’re looking for a natural safe way to whiten your teeth, why not give a natural whitening powder a try?