Archaeological evidence suggests that we have been using toothpaste for over 2000 years. The ancient Egyptians used a formula that cleaned the teeth but destroyed tooth structure, but that is beside the point. Since we have been using toothpaste for so long, one would probably surmise that we have perfected the formula. Well, that is not exactly true. At Matthew Nawrocki DMD, MS, we are dedicated to educating the public about oral health issues and concepts. We hope that you find this interesting and educational.
What is dentifrice and what are the Ingredients?
Dentifrice is essentially toothpaste. It is essentially a powder, paste, or liquid used for cleaning teeth. Here we will focus on the paste since it makes up the majority of products on the market. As you would expect from the myriad of products available, there are many different variations in formula for toothpaste. Here are some of the more common ingredients;
Toothpaste often contains abrasives like silica gels or calcium carbonates, fluoride (in a variety of forms), humectants which are designed to protect the paste from a loss of water, ingredients to add flavor, ingredients to prevent bad breath and gingivitis, and foaming agents. This may seem like a lot of ingredients and it is. It is important to remember that toothpaste performs a variety of functions.
What are the Different Types of Toothpastes and Their Functions?
There is a multitude of different toothpaste formulas and each have their own niche. Below are a few variations;
- Whitening Toothpaste – The toothpaste aisle is full of whitening toothpastes. These pastes generally will include hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, the same whitening agents in professional whitening products. What is often added to the whitening toothpastes that could possibly change the shade of teeth are ingredients that are more harsh than the traditional toothpaste. As a result, whitening toothpastes can be more abrasive and people with exposed root surface due to abrasion should avoid these pastes.
- Baking Soda Toothpastes – These toothpastes are in part made of baking soda. The idea is that some people would prefer the taste of baking soda over the traditional minty flavor of toothpastes. The baking soda toothpastes have not been shown to have a significant benefit over other pastes.
- Children’s Toothpaste– These come in more palatable flavors for children. In addition, the children’s toothpastes generally contain lower levels of fluoride. Although fluoride has terrific benefits for the developing teeth and the CDC has called water fluoridation one of the 10 most important public health inventions of the 20th century, excessive fluoride ingestion in children can cause systemic complications. If you want more information about this, feel free to visit our past blog article on children’s dentistry.
- Toothpastes to Fight Sensitivity – Tooth sensitivity can come from a variety of issues. If the sensitivity truly is coming from the teeth and not the gums, some toothpastes on the market can provide relief. If you are experiencing chronic sensitivity, it is a good idea to visit your dentist to discuss the possible reasons and solutions. In the meantime, brushing with toothpastes like Sensodyne, Crest Sensi Repair, or Colgate Sensitive Pro Relief. Each of these use slightly different mechanisms to reduce sensitivity. While different people react to these to different degrees, many people have found symptom relief.
Can Toothpastes Damage Tooth Structure?
The short answer to this is yes. Toothpaste is categorized by a relative dentin abrasive index. The index measures the abrasive content in the toothpaste. As mentioned above, the whitening toothpastes are higher on that scale and can potentially slowly scrape away tooth structure over time. If you have exposed root surfaces from recession or trauma, we encourage you to use Arm & Hammer brand toothpaste. They are consistently at the bottom of the abrasive index when different pastes are compared.
At Matthew Nawrocki DMD, MS, we welcome questions, comments, and new patients. Feel free to contact us electronically or call (904)602-8396 any time. In addition, if you want to learn more about oral healthcare topics, feel free to visit our past blog entries for some great information.