Have you ever felt overwhelmed when purchasing toothpaste? There are many kinds to choose from, and it may not always be clear which is the best one for you. Choosing a toothpaste for your needs can be as simple as making sure it has the seal of the Canadian Dental Association (this means that the health claims made by the manufacturer have been reviewed and proven) and checking the active ingredients.
Here is a look at some common ingredients found in toothpaste and what they do:
Fluoride (anti-cavity, desensitizing, antibacterial)- This vital ingredient has been proven to help strengthen your teeth and prevent cavities. It also helps fight tooth sensitivity and has a mild antibacterial effect. Sodium fluoride, stannous fluoride and sodium monofluorphosphate are the different types of fluoride that can be found in toothpaste. If you are at a high risk of developing cavities, your dentist may recommend a toothpaste with a higher concentration of fluoride in it.
Potassium nitrate (desensitizing)- This is a common ingredient in sensitivity toothpaste. Potassium nitrate works by desensitizing the nerve of the tooth, so it doesn’t react to common triggers such as cold drinks or sweets. This ingredient usually takes a couple of weeks of regular use to work.
Arginine and calcium carbonate (desensitizing)- Tooth sensitivity is often caused by exposure of the tooth layer called dentin. Dentin can be exposed if you have gum recession or thinning enamel. It is made up of many hollow tubules that send messages to the nerve of the tooth when you eat or drink certain things. These ingredients work by sealing off the open dentin tubules to block the nerve of the tooth and prevent tooth sensitivity.
Strontium chloride (desensitizing)- Found in the Sensodyne Original formula, this ingredient blocks the dentin tubules to treat sensitive teeth.
Novamin/calcium sodium phosphosilicate (desensitizing)- Novamin is a bioactive glass that was traditionally used in the medical field to repair broken bones. After some experimenting, it was found also to be useful in dentistry. It forms a protective layer over the teeth and blocks the dentin tubules to treat tooth sensitivity. Novamin is found in the Sensodyne Repair and Protect formula.
Triclosan (anti-gingivitis)- Triclosan has been shown to be effective in reducing harmful oral bacteria and therefore reducing gum inflammation. It is found in most Colgate Total toothpaste.
Zinc citrate, zinc chloride and pyrophosphates (anti-tartar)- Tartar build-up can have an adverse effect on oral tissues since it is a breeding ground for harmful oral bacteria. These ingredients do not have an impact on existing tartar build-up but can help prevent new deposits from forming.
Sodium hexametaphosphate (anti-stain and anti-tartar)- This ingredient may help prevent surface stains and tartar from forming on teeth.
Peroxide (whitening)- Found in some whitening toothpaste, hydrogen or carbamide peroxide are the same ingredients used for teeth bleaching. Since toothpaste isn’t in contact with the teeth for an extended period, there likely won’t be significant whitening effects from it.
The inactive ingredients found in toothpaste provide the texture, foaming action and polishing effect. Flavourings, colours and preservatives are also in most toothpaste.
Toothpaste labelled as whitening are more abrasive and can remove surface staining on teeth. Use of a whitening toothpaste over a long period can lead to thinning enamel and tooth sensitivity.
Sodium lauryl sulfate is a foaming ingredient found in many kinds of toothpaste. Some people find this ingredient irritating to the oral tissues, causing sloughing or triggering canker sores. Some formulas of Sensodyne and Pronamel do not contain this ingredient.
For immediate relief of tooth sensitivity, you can use your fingertip to rub a small amount of sensitive toothpaste directly into the affected area. For lasting relief, use sensitive toothpaste to brush twice a day.
Your dental professional will be able to make personalized recommendations for which dental products are right for you.