Do you always stick to the same brand, or perhaps you choose whatever is on special offer? Are you often confused by the sheer choice available and the list of claims they all seem to make? If so you’re not alone, and it can be difficult to decide on the best toothpaste for your oral health needs, but it is worth taking a bit of time to make a considered choice. The first thing to think about is whether you want to purchase your toothpaste in a gel, paste, or powder form, then the next thing to think about is the ingredients. Most types of toothpaste have at least some ingredients in common and these are:
- Abrasive agents such as silicates and calcium carbonate that help remove bacteria and food, and some stains from your teeth.
- Artificial flavoring such as saccharine makes the toothpaste taste better, and although it’s possible to buy toothpaste in a wide variety of flavors these days most people still opt for mint.
- Ingredients such as glycerol are designed to keep the moisture in the toothpaste.
- Thickening agents to keep the toothpaste at the right consistency.
- Detergents such as sodium lauryl sulfate give that foaming action associated with brushing your teeth.
- The next thing to think about is what you expect your toothpaste to do, and how you’d like it to benefit your oral health. Most toothpaste falls into the following categories.
Many types of toothpaste contain fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral that is useful for helping to harden the tooth enamel, decreasing the risk of tooth decay. Every time you eat or drink something containing sugars or starches then the bacteria naturally present in your mouth will feed off the leftovers, releasing acid as they do so. Fluoride is very useful as it helps to protect your tooth enamel against this acid attack, and it can help to remineralize the teeth, re-hardening the tooth enamel once the pH levels become less acidic. It’s an extremely useful ingredient, even if you live in an area where the public water supplies contain fluoride. This is because several fluoride ions remain in the saliva after brushing, continuing that protective effect.
Tartar Control Toothpaste
Most tartar control toothpaste contains fluoride as this is a useful ingredient in helping to fight the buildup of plaque bacteria that create a sticky layer over the teeth and gums. If the layer of plaque bacteria isn’t thoroughly removed during regular brushing, it can quickly harden into a substance called tartar that can only be removed by your dentist or dental hygienist during cleaning. The problem with tartar is that it can irritate the gums, prompting an immune response from the body which creates inflammation. In addition to fluoride, tartar control toothpaste often contains other chemical compounds such as pyrophosphates and zinc citrate that help limit the buildup of the substance. Some also contain triclosan, which is an antibiotic that can help to kill off some bacteria in the mouth.
Toothpaste to Reduce Tooth Sensitivity
A lot of people suffer from tooth sensitivity, and this condition can create discomfort or even pain when eating hot or cold foods. Sensitivity is often caused by the dentin layer becoming exposed. This layer contains many tiny tubules that lead directly to the center of the tooth which contains all the nerves. Toothpaste designed specifically for this purpose tends to contain potassium nitrate or strontium chloride, and these compounds work by gradually blocking up the tubules, reducing sensitivity over a period of several weeks of use.
Most whitening kinds of toothpaste don’t contain any bleach and will have only a limited effect on tooth color. Instead, they rely on chemicals or abrasive particles to help lift stains. It’s important when choosing whitening toothpaste to make sure it doesn’t contain harsh abrasives, as prolonged use could damage the tooth surfaces. Toothpaste has a Relative Dentin Abrasivity (RDA) value, but this can be difficult to find out as it’s not usually included on the packaging. If you can find out its rating, it’s best to use one with a relatively low RDA value of 70 or less. Toothpaste with a rating of between 70 and 100 is considered to be moderately abrasive, while anything above this figure is highly abrasive and is probably best avoided except for very occasional use.
When choosing your toothpaste do read the label, as it’s best to choose one that has received the approval of the American Dental Association. This means it will have been tested for its safety and effectiveness, and it will contain fluoride. If a particular brand of toothpaste seems especially cheap, then it’s probably not worth buying, especially if it has been imported from a country with less than rigorous testing standards. It is worth experimenting with a few different brands to see which you prefer, and if you live in a busy household then you may need to buy several different types of toothpaste to accommodate other family members’ oral health needs.
Ask Your Dentist’s Advice on Toothpaste for Young Children
If you have young children then you may want to consider buying toothpaste specially formulated for them to encourage them to develop good oral hygiene habits. In fact, it’s worth asking your dentist for advice on which toothpaste to use for very young children, as some dentists recommend using non-fluoride toothpaste up until the age of two or until they can spit out the excess. This can depend on several factors including their oral health, and whether or not the water is fluoridated locally.