How to choose the right type of toothpaste

With so many brands to choose from, deciding on the right toothpaste can be a little unnerving, pardon the dental pun. Is there a right or wrong kind? Are some better than others?

The easy answer on how to choose a toothpaste is that as long as you choose a toothpaste with the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval, you are good to go. There are, however, many varieties that might make one toothpaste better for you than others, so let’s drill down, shall we?

The easy answer on how to choose a toothpaste is that as long as you choose a toothpaste with the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval, you are good to go. There are, however, many varieties that might make one toothpaste better for you than others, so let’s drill down, shall we?

Besides polishing teeth, the job of toothpaste is to eliminate bacteria that cause dental plaque and bad breath. When plaque meets food, it creates an acid that facilitates buildup which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Dental plaque buildup also creates an accumulation of sulfur molecules which produce bad breath.

Essentially, all toothpastes consist of a few common ingredients: most importantly, fluoride to promote oral health and prevent cavities; detergents to create foaming suds that get rid of food particles and dental plaque; and abrasives to further help remove stains (but may damage enamel if used too zealously). Often, flavors, such as mint, vanilla or cinnamon, and fresheners are added for a cleaner feel.

Beyond the basic ingredients, there are many toothpastes to choose from:

  • Anti-gingivitis or Gum Health: Gingivitis — an inflammation of the gums — is the first stage of gum disease and the easiest to treat. If your gums are red, swollen, tender or bleeding after you brush or floss, you may benefit from an anti-gingivitis toothpaste to help reduce bacteria and halt this gum condition at its source. Left untreated, inflamed gums can recede, forming pockets and exposing areas of your teeth, which will lead to a disintegration of bone and connective tissue, and ultimately tooth loss.

  • Desensitizing: If you feel a shooting pain in your mouth when you sip something hot or cold, it’s generally because the tooth layer below the enamel, called dentin, is exposed. Desensitizing toothpaste contains ingredients such as potassium nitrate or strontium chloride, that block pain signals to the nerve of the tooth.

    While some brands claim their toothpaste can reduce sensitivity within two uses, it generally takes about a month of daily consistent use. It should be noted that this type of toothpaste treats the symptoms; it doesn’t cure sensitivity. While it will make you feel better, don’t let it mask further deterioration; consult a dentist to discuss treatment for the core cause.

  • Tartar-control: When plaque – a sticky, colorless film of bacteria that forms on the teeth and along the gum lines – is not removed by regular brushing and flossing, it can harden into tartar. Tartar-control toothpastes that contain multiple anti-plaque agents have shown to be more effective slowing the buildup of bacteria and tartar control than those with only one plaque fighter. Ultimately, however, the only way to truly eradicate tartar is with a professional dental cleaning.

  • Whitening: Whitening toothpastes can appear to whiten teeth slightly by removing surface stains, such as those caused by drinking coffee, dark colas or smoking, but ultimately cannot change the natural color of your teeth or lighten deep stains that go beyond the tooth’s surface. Used twice daily, whitening toothpastes generally take two to six weeks before teeth appear whiter. Follow manufacturer recommendations to ensure you are not wearing down tooth enamel.

  • Smokers: The nicotine and tar in tobacco can make teeth yellow in a very short time, and brown after years of heavy smoking. Because these pastes contain abrasive materials used to remove these stains, dentists do not usually recommend smokers’ toothpastes, as they can further damage teeth and delicate gum tissue.

  • Fresh Breath: Like many mouthwashes, fresh breath toothpastes are designed to mask bad breath but do not actually treat halitosis. Other bad breath remedies include drinking plenty of water, scraping your tongue with a scraper in the morning, brushing after every meal, daily flossing, regular checkups.

  • Natural: While some tout all-natural ingredients, these toothpastes have varied results. Some natural toothpastes may not contain fluoride, so check the label before buying the product.

  • Children’s: Children’s toothpastes are often a gel, as it is less abrasive on the sensitive enamel of baby teeth. Usually these toothpastes all contain less fluoride than the adult versions, and of course have a wider range of kid-friendly flavors.

  • Baking Soda: The original toothpaste, some like baking soda toothpaste because they prefer the fresh feeling. It, however, does not necessarily have more whitening powers than whitener toothpastes, and with continued use, the baking soda could damage tooth enamel. DIY baking soda toothpastes generally don’t contain fluoride. Do not use if you have braces with orthodontic glue or a permanent retainer, as the baking soda will soften the glue.

Ultimately, using the right toothpaste, is just one aspect of good oral health. A good toothbrush, flossing, diet and regular dental checkups must also be part of your regular dental regimen.

Posted In: Oral & Dental Health Tips