Have you ever asked your dentist which toothpaste you should be using? Doubtless, many of us have. We want to protect the beauty and health of our pearly whites at all costs. After all, stained and discoloured teeth can directly impact our self-worth.
But no one toothpaste can singlehandedly solve our oral health problems. It is, after all, a cosmetic. Brushing properly is more important for complete dental hygiene than which toothpaste you use.
So, how important is toothpaste?
What’s in Your Toothpaste?
With its minty flavour, toothpaste makes your mouth feel fresh. But shouldn’t you know a bit more about what’s in it before putting it in your mouth? The Canadian Dental Association (CDA) suggests that children shouldn’t be allowed to use toothpaste until their teeth have formed. And according to the Ontario Dental Association, you should follow your dentist’s advice before brushing your children’s teeth with toothpaste. If you use toothpaste on your kids’ teeth, use a very small amount.
So, are you doing it the right way? First, let’s find out what’s in your toothpaste.
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, your toothpaste may contain various ingredients, such as:
- 20% abrasive
- 2% pH buffers
- .24% fluoride
- 5% binders, opacifiers and colouring agents
- 75% humectant and water
- 2% foaming and flavouring agents
1. Abrasive Particles
Toothpaste usually contains hydrated silica or calcium carbonate. These act as the grit that polishes your teeth and the whitening agent found in most brands of whitening toothpaste. However, these toothpastes won’t do a better job than a professional dental cleaning will. No matter how high-quality a toothpaste is, it will only help you clean the surface, and it will take at least a couple of weeks for results to show. A dental hygienist can do as much in 30 minutes and it will be much less harsh on your teeth.
This crucial ingredient comes in many forms, including sodium fluoride and stannous fluoride. Fluoride prevents tooth decay, plaque and cavities, and keeps tooth enamel clean and polished. It’s the single most active ingredient that works the best to protect your teeth.
3. Baking Soda
Toothpastes that contain baking soda or sodium bicarbonate are the most effective against gum bleeding due to gingivitis and plaque.
If you have sensitive teeth, using toothpastes with sodium citrate, casein phosphopeptide, potassium nitrate or stannous fluoride can be effective for some people. Ask your dentist about this.
Triclosan is a chemical found in many household products. It’s alleged to be antimicrobial, but there is no conclusive evidence. In fact, due to its safety being questioned by government health agencies, it was banned from hand soaps and body washes in 2017. The European Union also passed a similar ban on Triclosan in January 2019. Even in Canada, manufacturers have stopped using it in their products.
6. Tartar Control
Does your toothpaste give you a burning sensation? Almost any toothpaste can cause this, due to contact stomatitis or dentifrice stomatitis. Sometimes, a toothpaste may contain tetrasodium pyrophosphate to dissolve calcium phosphate salts, a.k.a. tartar, from the back of your lower front teeth. A bit of tartar may not be harmful to your teeth until it starts becoming thick. The problem with toothpaste with tartar controlling properties is that it must contain a strong detergent to dissolve the salt. This can affect people sensitive to high levels of pH.
7. Foam (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate)
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a soap or detergent with very little in the way of cleaning properties. If you’re sensitive to it, you may experience irritation. Although there’s been no evidence of SLS causing cancer, its other effects can’t be ignored. The thick, soapy texture we associate with cleanliness feels good on our tongue.
But toothpaste doesn’t contain enough surfactant to clean the goo from your teeth, and that’s a good thing. If it did, it would scrub your gum tissues into a bloody pulp. Since SLS must be in contact with the affected area for a long time to be dangerous, regulatory authorities apply strict rules to it. The maximum percentage at which it can be used in a product has been limited to between 0.05% and 2.5% in most countries.
Is Toothpaste Good or Bad for You?
Simply stated, it depends on how you use it. It cannot clean your teeth by itself and you shouldn’t be using too much at once. Take your time brushing (at least two minutes) and make sure you don’t miss any spots. Remember, the friction caused by your toothbrush is what cleans your teeth, not the type of toothpaste you use. In fact, you can just use baking soda or coconut oil instead of toothpaste to get rid of stubborn plaque.
There’s nothing wrong with brushing your teeth with your favourite flavoured toothpaste. It leaves us feeling good. Just don’t rely on it too much. Instead, pay attention to daily brushing and visit your dentist regularly to maintain your oral health.