Some of the age-old questions, put to every dentist at least a dozen times a week.
- Abrasive Agents: Abrasive agents are the things that create the scratchy, abrasive sensation when you brush. They are what creates friction and helps get rid of the plaque on your teeth. They are usually made up of silicates like hydrated silica, calcium carbonate, hydrated alumina or even sand (which sounds weird, but is more common than you would think.
Detergent: The foaming when you brush is caused by detergents and cleansers in the toothpaste getting to work. They work very similarly to facial cleansers and even washing up liquid, breaking down undesirable substances that water alone won’t get, loosening any insoluble materials and cutting through any grease to reveal the clean, shiny surface beneath.
- Fluoride: The subject of fluoride was the cause of huge debates a few years ago, particularly in the US. Fluoride is a chemical that’s added to water and toothpaste to help strengthen tooth enamel and reverse the process of tooth decay. While fluoride does occur naturally, we need to artificially boost the levels to see the benefits. Around 1.6 billion people receive fluoride in their water in the UK – it’s the reason cavities and tooth decay have gone down so much in the last 50 years.
- Sweeteners: Of course, all this stuff might be good for your teeth, but it doesn’t always taste great. So toothpaste manufacturers will add sweeteners and flavourings to their mix to make it taste better. After all, if it tasted bad, you probably wouldn’t brush your teeth as often as you should. The traditional option is mint, but there are more exotic options out there for both adults and children.
What’s The Best?
All toothpaste brands out there will include all of those basic components, so when it comes to making a buying decision, it’s difficult to make a bad choice. However, in some cases there are certain things you should look for:
- If you smoke, or drink a lot of high-stain drinks (like tea, coffee or red wine), you’ll want to go for something with bicarbonate of soda in it to help fluoride in it to reduce staining, along with fluoride to make your teeth more resistant to the acids in those drinks that can decay your teeth.
- If you have yellower teeth, you’ll want something with a whitening additive to slowly break way the yellow and turn the tooth colour back to white. Abrasive toothpastes can help initially, but if you use them for too long they will actually start to turn your teeth darker and damage them, so be careful with them.
- If you have sensitive teeth, look for something with a low abrasion level to avoid pain when brushing. Added fluoride will help here as well, since tooth sensitivity is caused by thinning enamel, and fluoride toothpaste will help build this back up. If the sensitivity is a real issues, there are also specialist toothpastes out there for sensitive teeth that can actively reduce the sensitivity in your teeth – just ask your dentist what they recommend.
There are hundreds of brands out there, with lots of products designed to help people with specific teeth problems. But ultimately it doesn’t matter you use – it’s about how often you brush your teeth. Without regular brushing, toothpaste is just a bathroom ornament. So go for what you prefer, and make sure you use it.