Supermarkets and big box discount stores across Denver, Colorado and the country for that matter offer shelves full of toothpaste options. Some even have entire aisles dedicated to oral hygiene. How do you decide on which toothpaste is right for you and your family? Well, Bertagnolli Dental in Westminster is here to tell you the truth about toothpaste, its ingredients, and the adverse effects you should know.
Which toothpaste is right for me?
Toothpaste is separated into subcategories. In most stores, you’ll find specialized whitening toothpaste, tartar control toothpaste, fluoride-free toothpaste, kids toothpaste and toothpaste for sensitive teeth. Some people will base their toothpaste choice on their individual needs. This can mean buying a different toothpaste for each member of the family. Others will choose their toothpaste based on the flavor and even price.
Some of our Bertagnolli Dental clients can list off the functions and attributes of their preferred brand, almost repeating the TV commercial word for word. Does it pay to be loyal to one brand of toothpaste, or should you just buy whatever happens to be on special that day? The harsh reality is that toothpaste is mainly a cosmetic product. Despite the boasts proliferated in toothpaste commercials, the truth about toothpaste is that it does not contribute significantly to your oral hygiene.
What toothpaste does is create foam and gives your mouth a fresh feeling. We associate a lather or foamy sensation with soap and cleanliness. The strong minty flavor incorporated into most toothpaste gives the whole mouth a crisp, clean, and fresh taste, temporarily at least. While toothpaste certainly has a pleasing psychological effect, it does not necessarily impact how clean your teeth are after using it.
In a clinical study to measure the properties of whitening toothpaste, researchers at the University of Bristol Dental School found that there was no difference between the whitening toothpaste, generic toothpaste and plain water at inhibiting stains. The whitening toothpaste produced slightly better results than generic toothpaste and plain water at removing stains, however, it was not deemed capable enough to be clinically relevant.
What is in toothpaste?
Your typical toothpaste will contain the following ingredients:
· Fluoride - This remineralizes the enamel of your teeth, making them stronger and more resistant to decay. This is one of the most important ingredients of toothpaste, and sometimes the only true active ingredient. Some people are wary of fluoride's effects and try to avoid it, even though it is effective in preventing cavities.
· Abrasives - Calcium carbonate and dehydrated silica gel help to physically scrub the surface of the teeth and remove food particles. Brushing too hard and fast without using the correct technique can wear down your teeth and remove some of the enamel.
· Detergents - These create the foamy lather we mentioned earlier. This does not technically help to remove plaque from your teeth, but it does create a pleasing sensation.
· Flavorings - Usually menthol based flavors and sweeteners such as saccharin are used to make toothpaste palatable. Toothpaste does not usually contain sugar, even though you can find sweet bubblegum and fruit-flavored tubes of toothpaste marketed towards children.
Specially formulated tartar control toothpaste is designed to prevent the buildup of hardened mineral plaques or 'tartar' sometimes found on the inner surfaces of the teeth. They usually contain extra ingredients called pyrophosphates – tetrasodium or tetrapotassium pyrophosphates are the compounds added to toothpaste to fight the formation of tartar or calculus plaques.
Unfortunately, according to the Houston Health Science Center Dental Branch, this type of toothpaste can cause irritation in some users. Pyrophosphates create higher than usual levels of alkalinity in the mouth, to which some people can be sensitive. The presence of pyrophosphates in toothpaste requires the addition of more flavorings to hide the bitter taste. It also means the level of detergent is increased to allow for solubility of these tartar-fighting compounds. The combined increased concentrations of all these components can contribute to irritation in the soft tissue of the gums and palate, all causing further hypersensitivity.
Toothpaste for sensitive teeth also contains an added ingredient, potassium nitrate. This compound desensitizes teeth and reduces the feeling of discomfort caused by hot and cold temperatures or sugary foods. Unfortunately, by using this additive, you may be just masking the pain of a cavity or serious issue requiring proper dental care and treatments.
What is more important than toothpaste?
When it comes to your dental health and the truth about toothpaste, some things have a far bigger impact. The real tools needed for good oral hygiene are a toothbrush and dental floss. Choose a soft-bristled toothbrush and either traditional floss or floss in a plastic Y-shaped holder.
The soft bristles of a toothbrush will effectively remove the food particles and plaque on the surface of your teeth without damaging the enamel. A toothbrush with very stiff bristles can cause abrasion of the teeth and irritate the gums.
Using floss will physically remove the plaque and food stuck in the gaps between your teeth. It is this physical removal of debris that essentially cleans your teeth. The toothpaste, as we have explained earlier, is more for show than for hygiene. If you want to drastically improve your dental hygiene, pay close attention to your brushing technique.
Brushing the exposed surfaces of each tooth individually with tiny circular movements is effective in the removal of plaque from crevices between teeth and from where the tooth meets the gum line. If you usually brush your teeth with long back and forth motions, sweeping five teeth at a time, try to alter your technique.
Some hygienists recommend brushing your teeth once without using any toothpaste, and then again with the toothpaste. This allows you to concentrate on your brushing technique and see where exactly the toothbrush is hitting, without the foamy toothpaste obscuring the action.
So, now you know just what toothpaste contains, how effective it is, and some of its possible adverse effects. Will knowing the truth about toothpaste change how you approach your oral hygiene? For more information on proper dental care or to schedule an appointment, please contact Bertagnolli Dental in Westminster, Colorado.