Are you using the right toothpaste?

What are the different types of toothpaste?

With so many options, we all face the challenge of choosing a toothpaste. Our practitioners are commonly asked, “what toothpaste do I need” and “what are the differences between the many options”? When it comes to deciding if one is better than the other, having an understanding of the function of toothpaste and the different possible additives available are a good place to start. The best choice will vary by personal needs, but there are some standard guidelines that can help narrow your decisions.

While it’s helpful to know what to look for in a toothpaste, we also recommend that you talk to your dentist and get a professional recommendation that’s tailored to your dental needs. To help sort out the differences in toothpaste types, we have put together an overview of the most common types of toothpaste to help you better understand their benefits and uses.

These are the most common toothpaste options:

  • Fluoride-Free
  • Whitening
  • Sensitive
  • Tartar Control
  • Strengthening/Enamel Strengthening
  • Protection
  • Natural
  • Gel
  • Paste

Fluoride Toothpaste

Fluoride is naturally occurring mineral that is a common additive in many toothpastes. It helps remove plaque from teeth and gums and prevents tooth decay by strengthening tooth enamel (the hard protective coating on your teeth) and protecting against harmful acids. It can also retroactively help your teeth by re mineralizing areas of enamel that have been damaged.

All American Dental Association (ADA) accepted toothpastes contain fluoride and dentists recommend using a toothpaste that contains fluoride.

While many fluoride-free toothpastes are labeled as such, it’s not always a guarantee. Always be sure to look for the ADA seal and check the ingredients for fluoride.

Whitening Toothpaste

Many of the things we eat and drink every day, like coffee and tea, can stain our teeth. To combat this, we’ve seen the rise of whitening toothpastes for everyday use. Unlike chemical-based whitening treatments, whitening toothpastes typically contain abrasive to scrub off stains or ingredients that will attach to and lift stains. Theses additives aren’t found to damage teeth.

While a whitening toothpaste won’t create as drastic of a change as a professional whitening, it can help improve the appearance of your teeth over time.

Sensitive Toothpaste

Toothpastes branded as “sensitive” are intended to help people who suffer from tooth pain and sensitivity – typically triggered when eating hot or cold items. There is nothing more “gentle” about these toothpastes. Instead, they contain desensitizing ingredients like potassium nitrate or strontium chloride to help block the discomfort.

A desensitizing toothpaste may be recommended by your dentists if you have pain or discomfort not caused by a cavity or other oral health issue. While these sensitive toothpastes can help, it’s important to remember that the effects take a little while to set in.

Tartar Control Toothpaste

While fluoride helps remove plaque from your teeth and gums, any plaque not removed can harden into tartar. Once it reaches this stage a dentist visit it required to remove the tartar.

Tartar control toothpastes contain ingredients, most commonly pyrophosphates and zinc citrate, that can help prevent the formation of tartar – though regular dentist visits are still necessary for a deeper clean.

Strengthening or Enamel Strengthening Toothpaste

Toothpastes that are labeled as strengthening typically refer to strengthening enamel. In general, this simply means that the toothpaste contains fluoride. However, some “pro-enamel” toothpastes also claim to be less abrasive.


If you’re concerned about protecting your tooth enamel, opt for a toothpaste that contains fluoride and talk to your dentist.

Protection Toothpaste

Some toothpastes are marketed as “cavity protection” or “complete protection.” Similar to strengthening toothpastes, this variety is intended to protect your tooth enamel in order to prevent the formation of cavities. A healthy oral care routine using a fluoride-based toothpaste will go a long way toward this goal, regardless if your toothpaste of choose has the word “protection” in the name.

Natural Toothpaste

With the healthy eating and “green” movement, many people are interested in natural toothpastes. While some people opt to brush with baking soda, others prefer natural toothpaste brands. These brands typically clearly list all ingredients, keep ingredient lists short, and forego common synthetic ingredients in favor of more natural alternatives.

The important thing to remember if you’d like to use a natural toothpaste is to choose one that contains fluoride. Fluoride is a single ingredient that goes a long way to protecting your oral health and any toothpaste that does not contain fluoride is not approved by the ADA.

Gel vs. Paste Toothpaste

There is no medical difference between gel and paste toothpaste – meaning one isn’t better for your teeth than the other. This means you’re free to choose between gel and paste toothpaste based on personal preference.

As with any health decision, it’s important to talk to your doctor or dentist and schedule routine visits. While using a good toothpaste can help promote good mouth health, regular cleanings and additional dental care remain necessary. If you’d like help choosing the best toothpaste for your needs, talk to your dentist or dental hygienist today.

Topics: sensitive teeth | teeth whitening

Posted In: Oral & Dental Health Tips