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The Ultimate Toothpaste Guide

There are literally dozens of toothpaste variations, and this can be confusing for untrained patients. There are so many brands to choose from and each brand has so many options. You probably want a toothpaste that helps fight cavities, strengthen your teeth, and remove stains. Toothpaste comes in a variety of flavors, colors and even different types of dispensers. Since this is a product you use every day, you want to choose the best one for you.


Let’s start with the basics. Exactly what is toothpaste? According to the American Dental Association (ADA), “Toothpastes are pastes, gels or powders that help remove plaque, a film of bacteria that forms on teeth and gums.”

Toothpaste is also known as dentifrice. Tooth paste is a key factor of your dental hygiene. It increases the effectiveness of brushing and its results. Toothpaste which has the American Dental Association seal has been reviewed by the ADA to ensure that it is safe and that claims are backed by scientific evidence.

Toothpaste Common Ingredients

Abrasive agents: These scrub the surface of your teeth to remove food particles and stains, without damaging tooth enamel.

Fluoride: It helps remove plaque, a film of bacteria that forms on teeth and gums, often as a result of consuming acidic foods and drinks. Only those products that contain fluoride receive the ADA’s Seal of Acceptance.

Detergent: This ingredient creates a foaming action in the toothpaste.

Flavoring agents: Flavoring and artificial sweeteners give the toothpaste a pleasant taste.

Anti-drying agents: This agent prevents water loss in the toothpaste, so that the toothpaste does not dry up and get hard.

Thickening agents: These act as binders to stabilize the toothpaste.

Toothpaste can have many uses. Depending on the type you choose, it can help prevent cavities, strengthen your teeth, and reduce sensitivity in your teeth. It can also help remove stains such as those caused by coffee or tea. There is also non-toxic toothpaste for children and others who may tend to swallow their toothpaste when brushing.

teeth cleaning gum disease

Different types of toothpaste

Anti-cavity toothpastes will likely have sodium fluoride or sodium monofluorophosphate at 1,000 to 1,450 ppm for adults. Children's doses should be 500 to 1,000 ppm. Stannous fluoride also provides anti-cavity benefits; however, it is not the most common ingredient found in OTC toothpastes.

Anti-gingivitis pastes may have a combination of ingredients that are both bactericidal and bacteriostatic. Stannous fluoride, triclosan, cetylpyrindium chloride, chlorine dioxide, and zinc all play a role in reducing or eliminating bacteria associated with gingivitis.

For tartar control, look for tetrasodium pyrophosphate. It may or may not be included as an ingredient in either anti-cavity or anti-gingivitis pastes. Some of your patients may be sensitive to this particular ingredient.

Most pastes targeted for sensitivity will have potassium nitrate. Stannous fluoride and NovMin® also have a positive effect on sensitivity.

Ingredients in pastes for oral malodor vary and include zinc, essential oils, CPC, chlorine dioxide, and xylitol.

Many whitening pastes have the added benefit of anti-cavity, anti-gingivitis, and tartar control plus hydrogen peroxide or sodium carbonate peroxide.

OTC re-mineralization pastes have a combination of amorphous calcium phosphate (ACP) and fluoride. Patients may be a bit confused regarding the importance of this category when choosing a paste for their family.

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is an ingredient that requires attention. Some patient may be sensitive to this foaming agent.

Most OTC pastes are user-friendly, meaning that patient compliance is not an unrealistic expectation. Sensitive pastes pose the most concern, as instructions are generally for the product to be used for two consecutive weeks before desired results are noticed.

Many pastes now incorporate xylitol. This natural sugar is a great benefit for patients with caries, periodontal disease, and dry mouth.

By separating and describing the purpose for each OTC paste category, you may feel better prepared about which paste would best benefit each patient.

Professionally dispensed pastes have similar categories. The concentration of particular ingredients, such as sodium and stannous fluoride, Recaldent™ (CPP-ACP), NovaMin® and SensiStat®, varies to help maintain optimum oral health. Patient compliance with each of these specific product guidelines is essential for desired results.

Sensitive Toothpaste: Many people suffer from pain and sensitivity in their teeth, often resulting from eating hot or cold foods. This type of toothpaste contains desensitizing ingredients to help reduce the pain. It may, however, take several weeks of use before you get relief.

Natural Toothpaste: You may wish to use a natural toothpaste, which contains natural ingredients instead of synthetic ones. Remember, however, that it is still important to use a fluoride toothpaste–one that bears the ADA seal of approval.

When choosing your toothpaste, take your personal needs into account. If you find a product that is approved by the ADA and has a taste and texture you like, you will be more inclined to brush regularly. It is best to consult with your dentist, who can recommend a toothpaste based on your personal requirements.

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