How do you choose a toothpaste? Have you purchased the same one for years? Do you buy what's on sale? Does someone else in your household make the choice for you? Not all toothpastes are alike. Selecting a toothpaste based on your specific needs can lead to a healthier mouth and a brighter smile.
Why choose a certain toothpaste?
Although how you brush is most important, toothpastes are formulated to help in different ways. You may choose a toothpaste for one of the following reasons:
- being cavity-prone
- having sensitive teeth
- gum bleeding/gum disease
- dry mouth
- tooth whitening
- fresher breath
- strengthen/remineralize tooth structure
- to prevent acid erosion on teeth
- sensitivity to specific toothpaste ingredients
- a desire to choose a natural or fluoride-free toothpaste
- requiring a toothpaste that features a combination of benefits
- flavour or texture preference
Common toothpaste ingredients
Below are just some of the many active or medicinal ingredients found in toothpastes:
Fluoride (anti-cavity, remineralizing, dry mouth, desensitizing, antibacterial) -Sodium fluoride, stannous fluoride and sodium monofluorophosphate are the different types of fluoride that are found in toothpaste. Fluoride can strengthen teeth and prevent cavities as well as reduce tooth sensitivity and have a mild anti-bacterial effect. If a person is at high risk of developing cavities, a toothpaste with a higher concentration of fluoride such as Colgate Prevident 5000ppm Booster Plus or 3M Clinpro 5000 may be recommended. For those who prefer no fluoride, Tom's of Maine offers a variety of fluoride-free toothpaste options.
The Canadian Dental Association recommends fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than a smear, or no larger than a grain of rice for children younger than 3 years who are at risk of developing tooth decay. For children 3 to 6 years of age, a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste is recommended. CDA - Fluoride FAQs
- Xylitol (anti-cavity, dry mouth) -Xylitol is a natural sweetener derived from vegetable sources. Decay-causing bacteria are not able to metabolize xylitol. X-Pur Cari0 25% xylitol toothpaste is also fluoride-free.
- Strontium chloride (desensitizing) - This ingredient is found in the Sensodyne Original formula.
- Potassium nitrate (desensitizing) -Commonly found in most sensitivity toothpastes, potassium nitrate soothes the nerve in a tooth so it doesn't react to common triggers such as cold drinks or sweets. Some brands that have sensitivity pastes that contain potassium nitrate are: Colgate, Crest, Tom's of Maine and Sensodyne.
- Arginine and calcium carbonate (desensitizing) - Colgate Sensitive PRO-Relief toothpaste uses these two ingredients to plug the channels that lead to sensitive tooth nerves in order to block pain. It builds a barrier that acts like a seal against sensitivity.
- NovaMin -calcium sodium phosphosilicate (desensitizing, remineralizing, anti-cavity) -NovaMin is a a bioactive glass that blocks the tiny holes in tooth dentin to help reduce the pain of sensitive teeth. It is found in Sensodyne Repair & Protect toothpaste.
- Recaldent -casein phosphopeptide-amorphous calcium phosphate, CPP-ACP (desensitizing, remineralizing, anti-cavity, anti-plaque, dry mouth) -Recaldent is a unique ingredient derived from, and naturally occurring, in cows' milk. It helps to strengthen teeth by delivering calcium and phosphate to the enamel to remineralize the areas that have been affected by plaque bacteria. Recaldent is the active ingredient in MI Paste.
- Zinc citrate (breath freshener, anti-plaque) - Zinc citrate is a zinc salt derived from citric acid. It can help freshen breath by reducing the impact of odorous volatile sulfur compounds produced in our mouth by bacteria. Some Tom's of Maine toothpastes contain zinc citrate.
- Sodium hexametaphosphate (anti-stain and anti-tartar) -This ingredient found in Crest Pro-Health toothpaste, may help prevent surface stains and tartar from forming on teeth.
- Peroxide-hydrogen or carbamide (whitening) -These are the same ingredients that are used for teeth bleaching but since toothpaste isn't in contact with teeth for an extended period, there likely won't be significant whitening effects from it. However, we have noticed less surface stains on teeth from food and drink after using toothpastes with peroxide such as Colgate Optic White. Hydrogen peroxide is used in Step 2 of the Crest Pro-Health HD system.
Other toothpaste ingredients
Toothpastes may also contain inactive or non-medicinal ingredients such as:
- thickening agents/binders - provide texture and thickness to a toothpaste and help to stabilize the toothpaste formula (natural gums, seaweed colloids or synthetic cellulose)
- humectants - add moisture and prevent toothpastes from drying out (glycerol, glycol, sorbitol)
- flavourings and sweeteners - none of which cause tooth decay (xylitol, sorbitol) Some children tell us that they like the mild mint flavour of the Sensodyne Pronamel for Children toothpaste.
- mild abrasives - act as a polishing agent to remove debris and surface stains (calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate, hydrated aluminum oxides, silica) Sodium bicarbonate/baking soda is a mild abrasive, so it scours your teeth, helping to eliminate plaque and leaves teeth feeling smooth and clean.
- detergents - sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a common detergent that makes toothpastes foamy when used. Some people find this ingredient irritating to the mouth tissues, causing sloughing or triggering canker sores. Two examples of SLS-free toothpastes are: X-Pur Cari0 and Sensodyne ProNamel. Crest Gum Detoxify toothpastes use SLS to produce a cooling foam that cleans deeply around and slightly under the gumline.
- activated charcoal - We have had patients ask us about the use of charcoal-based toothpastes with whitening, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and breath freshening claims. In a recent article in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA), a number of studies were reviewed and the researchers concluded that more evidence is needed before they can confidently establish the safety and effectiveness of charcoal pastes.
100 Years of Dental Care
We've come a long way! To highlight the development of toothpastes and other mouth care products in the last 100 years, check out this video by Allure.
Canadian Dental Association Seal
A Canadian Dental Association Seal means that the health claims made by the manufacturer have been reviewed and proven. Click here for a list of toothpastes and other mouth care products that are part of the CDA Seal program.
No plastic microbeads in toothpastes
Good news! ~ Effective July 1, 2018 ~ The manufacture, import and sale of toothpastes that contain plastic microbeads, which are known to harm the environment, have been banned in Canada.
There are many different toothpastes available and new ones are being introduced all the time. Our Lorne Park Dental team stays up-to-date on the latest options and is happy to suggest a toothpaste that will fit your personal needs. Contact us today to reserve your appointment time. We look forward to seeing you soon!