Choosing the Best Toothpaste for Your Oral Health
If you follow your dentist’s recommendations, you probably reach for your toothpaste at least twice a day, making it a must-have household item. But how do you go about purchasing your toothpaste from among the dozens of varieties offered by the 11 different brands that share 99% of the U.S. toothpaste market? Do you check the ingredients and/or focus on claimed benefits, whether fluoride, whitening, tartar control, breath freshening, sensitivity, or some combination thereof? Or do you choose based on price, or perhaps just opt for a brand and type that you’ve been using for years?
Whatever your answer, we’d suggest that you should be an informed consumer and consider your toothpaste options based on which type might prove most beneficial for your oral health. Thus, the following primer on choosing the best toothpaste for your oral health:
Let’s First Consider Toothpaste Basics
Pretty much all toothpaste brands and types contain similar ingredients that give the product—whether as a paste or gel formulation—its cleansing properties, taste, and texture. These basic ingredients include:
- Detergents, such as sodium lauryl sulfate.
- Abrasive agents such as calcium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and silicates that help the detergents remove food, bacteria, and some stains from the enamel.
- Flavoring agents, such as saccharin or other artificial sweeteners, to help make the toothpaste more palatable.
- Moisture retention agents to prevent the formulations from drying out.
- Thickening agents to provide the toothpaste with a standard texture.
How Important is Fluoride?
The addition of Fluoride is the first consideration you should make in choosing your toothpaste. Fluoride is so effective at helping prevent tooth decay that many municipalities started adding it to their water systems more than 50 years ago. Fluoride works by strengthening tooth enamel and can help re-mineralize enamel that has been damaged by decay.
While most toothpastes contain fluoride, always doublecheck your toothpaste choice to be sure. Even if you live in an area with fluoridated water you should still brush with fluoride toothpaste because it helps increase fluoride concentrations on the teeth.
What of Toothpastes That Claim to Restore Enamel?
Lots of toothpaste types proclaim enamel restoration as a benefit, but this just a marketing ploy, as the benefit is essentially provided by the fluoride, which can help restore enamel as long as it has not yet decayed.
Do Tartar Control Toothpastes Really Work?
Tartar control toothpaste formulations rely on a variety of chemical compounds designed to help prevent the buildup of tartar on the teeth by controlling the bacteria and plaque that causes it. These compounds include pyrophosphates and zinc citrate, as well as a bacteria-killing antibiotic known as triclosan. In general, the more anti-plaque ingredients in the formulation, the more effective the toothpaste should be at controlling tartar.
Sensitive Teeth Options Are Effective
If you have sensitive teeth, as marked by pain and irritation with hot or cold temperatures, brushing, and/or certain foods, toothpastes marketed for sensitive teeth do work. Such toothpastes contain chemical compounds that block pathways from the outside of the teeth to the interior nerves. Note, though, that it can take several weeks for the blocking action of the compounds to become completely effective.
Should You Opt for the Whitening Options?
Most whitening toothpastes contain abrasive particles and chemicals that help polish teeth and remove stains from the surface of teeth. While they can help whiten teeth, noticeable results take time and the toothpaste will not be able to address deeper level staining.
Why You Might Need a Prescription Toothpaste
Even with regular brushing and flossing, some people are just more prone to developing cavities than other people. To help such patients control tooth decay dentists turn to prescription toothpaste. These prescription-strength toothpastes contain up to four times the concentrations of fluoride as regular toothpaste, which such patients might need to prevent decay. Prime candidates for prescription toothpaste include:
- Patients with weak enamel and a history of cavity formation.
- Patients with dry mouth.
- Gum surgery patients (to prevent cavities from developing on teeth roots).
- Orthodontic patients.
Learn More About Oral Care at Island Tower Dentistry
For some final pointers about your toothpaste choices we suggest that you always choose ones that have been approved by the American Dental Association (ADA). These toothpastes have been evaluated for effectiveness and safety and always contain fluoride.
As for using your toothpaste, try to brush for at least three minutes and avoid rinsing immediately after. Rinsing washes away fluoride and other beneficial ingredients before they can be fully absorbed by the teeth, negating some of its effectiveness.
If you would like to learn more tips about maintaining the best oral health, Island Tower Dentistry’s Dr. Jonathan Van Dyke would be happy to discuss your specific oral health needs during an examination. Contact Island Tower Dentistry today at 239-394-1004 to schedule your appointment!