- Related Resources - Weighing Your Toothpaste Options
- Slideshow: Top Problems in Your Mouth
- Teeth Whiteners That Work
- Dental (Oral) Health Quiz
Just the number of options you have when you buy a tube of toothpaste can be overwhelming. Should you go for tartar control? Fluoride? Both? And don't forget to think about whitening toothpastes or formulas with all natural ingredients.
When it comes to choosing the best toothpaste for you, it's important to think about your unique oral health needs.
Toothpaste, also known as dentifrice, is available in paste, gel, or powder form. Despite the many types of toothpaste that exist, there are some ingredients common to most varieties. These include:
- Abrasive agents. Scratchy materials, including calcium carbonate and silicates, help remove food, bacteria, and some stains from your teeth.
- Flavoring. Artificial sweeteners, including saccharin, are often added to toothpaste to make them taste better. While many people equate the flavor of toothpaste with mint, toothpaste is available in a variety of flavors, including cinnamon, lemon-lime, and even bubblegum (for
kids -- orkids at heart).
- Humectants for moisture retention. Paste and gel formulations often contain substances like glycerol to prevent the toothpaste from drying out.
- Thickeners. Agents that add thickness to the toothpaste, including gums and gooey molecules found in some seaweeds, help achieve and maintain proper toothpaste texture.
- Detergents. Those suds you see when you brush your teeth are from detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate.
The most important ingredient to look for when choosing toothpaste is fluoride.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral. Its use has been instrumental in the dramatic drop in tooth decay and cavity occurrence that has taken place over the past 50 years. Bacteria in your mouth feed on sugars and starches that remain on your teeth after eating. Fluoride helps protect your teeth from the acid that is released when this happens. It does this in two ways. First, fluoride makes your tooth enamel stronger and less likely to suffer acid damage. Second, it can reverse the early stages of acid damage by remineralizing areas that have started to decay.
Using fluoride toothpaste is an important way to ensure that your teeth are reaping the benefits of this dental-friendly mineral. Don't think you can skip fluoride if you live in an area where the water is fluoridated. Studies have shown that using fluoride toothpaste helps increase the concentration of fluoride in the teeth, even in areas with water supplies containing high levels of the mineral.
Tartar control toothpaste
There are many tartar control toothpastes on the market, most of which contain fluoride.
Everyone has a layer of bacteria on their teeth called plaque. If plaque isn't removed promptly with proper oral hygiene, it hardens into tartar. This hard-to-remove deposit can build up on your teeth and under your gums, ultimately leading to gum disease.
There are a variety of ingredients used in toothpaste to help prevent the accumulation of tartar on the teeth. Chemical compounds, including pyrophosphates and zinc citrate, are often added and have been proven effective. Additionally, some tartar control toothpastes contain an antibiotic called triclosan, which kills some of the bacteria in the mouth.
Certain toothpastes containing multiple anti-plaque agents in one formulation have been demonstrated to be even more effective at tartar control than varieties with only one plaque fighter.
Toothpastes for sensitive teeth
For people who have teeth that are easily
To help people on a quest for pearly whites, many whitening toothpastes are now being marketed for everyday use.
Whitening toothpastes do not typically contain bleaches. Instead, they contain abrasive particles or chemicals that effectively polish the teeth or bind to stains and help pull them off the tooth surface.
Although you might be concerned that the abrasiveness of whitening toothpaste could damage your teeth, studies suggest that whitening toothpastes are no harder on tooth enamel than other types of toothpaste.
Choosing the best toothpaste for you and your family
Here are some tips to help you choose the best toothpaste to meet your family's dental needs:
Opt for ADA approval. Whatever your toothpaste needs, be sure to select toothpaste that has earned an American Dental Association seal of approval. Toothpastes that have earned this distinction have been evaluated for safety and effectiveness by an independent review board of scientific experts. All toothpastes earning the ADA seal contain
fluoride -- themost important ingredient in any toothpaste.
- Be wary of imposters. In 2007, some toothpastes imported from China were found to contain a toxic substance, diethylene glycol. The FDA is currently advising against choosing toothpaste that says it was made in China.
- Consider your needs and the needs of your family members. As long as you select a fluoride-containing toothpaste, the best toothpaste is a matter of personal choice and preference. If you're committed to an all-natural lifestyle, you may want to opt for ADA-approved toothpastes that contain only natural ingredients. For people trying to instill good oral hygiene habits in your children, why not choose fruit-flavored toothpastes with sparkles to entice them to brush their teeth? Some people are eager to restore whiteness to their teeth with whitening toothpastes. Others like the feeling of brushing their teeth with toothpaste containing hydrogen peroxide or baking soda.
With so many different options and combinations available, you can experiment with different brands, varieties, and flavors to find the best toothpaste for you.
WebMD Medical Reference
American Dental Association: "ADA Seal of Acceptance Program."
American Dental Association: "Keeping Teeth Bright and Healthy."
University of Maryland Medical Center: "Oral Health: Brushing and Toothpaste."
University of Maryland Medical Center: "Oral Health: Fluoride."
U.S. Food and Drug Administration: "FDA Advises Consumers to Avoid Toothpaste From China Containing Harmful Chemical."
Reviewed by Matthew Hoffman, MD, on July 10, 2008
© 2008 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
- The Predicted 'Tripledemic' Is Here: Why Isn't There an RSV Vaccine?
- 'Tumor Progressing,' 'Positive Findings': Patients Often Confused by Medical Jargon
- Seizures Seem Tied to Faster Decline in People With Dementia
- Few Americans Understand Alcohol's Impact on Cancer Risk: Survey
- Frozen Stuffed Chicken Products & Microwave Ovens: A Recipe for Salmonella
- More Health News »
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top Choosing a Toothpaste Related Articles
Brighter, Whiter TeethWant brighter, whiter teeth? Brushing up on these photo tips can help keep your teeth white. Discover which smile-whitening ideas will make your teeth shine their brightest and how to avoid future stains.
CavitiesLearn more about cavities including symptoms, treatment, and prevention. See how tooth decay, plaque, and bacteria contribute to the creation of cavities and how regular brushing and flossing can help prevent dental caries.
Dental Problems: Tooth Decay, TMJ, Mouth Pain Causes & TreatmentsDo you have a toothache? What is oral cancer? Symptoms like mouth pain and sensitive teeth can indicate dental problems. Learn the causes of painful problems in your mouth like tooth decay, TMJ, and dry mouth. See how bad breath starts, and how to fight bad breath with dental treatments that work.
Dental Health QuizTake the Dental Health Quiz to test your IQ of oral hygiene, cavities, and common tongue and gum diseases. This quiz covers healthy mouths and teeth from brushing to flossing and everything in between check-ups!
Gum Disease (Gingivitis)Gum disease is caused by plaque and may result in tooth loss without proper treatment. Symptoms and signs of gum disease (gingivitis or periodontal disease) include receding gums, bad breath and pocket formation between the teeth and gums. Treatment depends upon the stage of the gum disease, how you responded to earlier treatments, and your overall health.
Oral Health Problems in ChildrenOral health problems in children include thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, lip sucking, tooth decay, and early tooth loss. Get tips on how to prevent these problems in your child.
Teeth and Gum CareWith proper teeth and gum care, it's possible to ward off tooth decay and gum disease. It's essential to brush twice a day, floss once a day, eat right, and visit the dentist every six months for a dental check-up.
Teeth PictureThe teeth are the hardest substances in the human body. See a picture of the Teeth and learn more about the health topic.
Teeth WhiteningTeeth whitening refers to the use of special toothpastes or bleaching agents to brighten teeth and remove stains and yellowing. Teeth whitening with bleach can be performed at home or in a dental office. Side effects may include increased tooth sensitivity and gum irritation.
ToothacheA toothache is pain on or around a tooth. It may have a variety of causes, including a cavity, abscess, or even sinusitis. Toothache symptoms include pain, headache, earache, bad taste in the mouth, and gum swelling. Dental X-rays and other tests performed by a dentist are used to diagnose the cause of a toothache. Toothache treatment depends on the underlying cause. Taking proper care of the teeth and gums can help prevent toothache.
Which Is the Best Toothpaste to Use?The most important thing you should look for when buying toothpaste is the seal of the American Dental Association (ADA). The best toothpaste depends on the condition of your teeth. Toothpaste are formulated to help fight cavities, sensitivity, weak enamel, stains and other conditions.