The last time you went to the local store to buy toothpaste the choices probably stretched for several feet. The longer you looked, the more confused you became. Eventually, you simply picked a box at random and headed to the checkouts. Is that really the best way?
Obviously not. After all, it’s a product you use several times a day and it has a critical impact on your oral health.
In this article, we’ve covered some tips to help you choose the best toothpaste for you and your family.
Narrow Down the Available Choices in Toothpaste
The first tip in narrowing down the dozens of choices is to determine your specific dental needs. Consider the following in choosing the best toothpaste for you:
- Do you have sensitive teeth?
- Are you looking for a whitening toothpaste?
- Do you need a toothpaste that helps with halitosis (bad breath)?
- Do you have gingivitis or periodontal disease (gum disease)?
- Do you have dentures?
Depending on your individual needs, you’ll be able to narrow down the choices to a toothpaste that is formulated to address those needs. Ask your dentist for their advice, too.
Know the Ingredients
Once you narrow down your choices, you will have more time to read the labels and sort out ingredients. You can look for ingredients you know to be helpful or avoid those that are problematic.
The following are some of the most common ingredients in many toothpastes:
Fluoride is the primary active ingredient in many toothpastes. It is a mineral that helps protect your teeth from developing cavities. Fluoride accomplishes this by strengthening tooth enamel. It also prevents tooth enamel from being worn down by acidic foods or drinks. Fluoride also fights stains on teeth from things like wine, coffee, and berries.
Not all toothpastes contain fluoride. You do have a choice. Keep in mind, however, that the American Dental Association (ADA) only bestows its Seal of Acceptance on toothpastes that do contain fluoride.
One note to keep in mind: Children should be using fluoride-free toothpaste or they should be supervised when they brush. Fluoride can be harmful to kids who often swallow too much toothpaste.
Another active ingredient in some toothpaste is a desensitizer that helps block pain from teeth that are sensitive to hot or cold foods and drinks. Look for this ingredient if you and your dentist discussed this as one of your priorities in toothpaste.
Look for potassium nitrate or strontium chloride on the list of active ingredients if you experience tooth sensitivity. Desensitizers block the pain signal before it reaches the nerve in the tooth.
Abrasives are inactive ingredients that remove stains, plaque, and tartar from your teeth. These abrasives are calcium carbonate, hydrated aluminum oxides, and dehydrated silica gels. They clean and polish the teeth without scratching the tooth itself.
Sweetening agents are also considered inactive ingredients that give toothpaste its flavor. Surprisingly, with the added sweeteners saccharin and sorbitol, toothpaste can still earn the Seal of Approval from the ADA. The reason? These sugar substitutes don’t cause tooth decay like real sugars do.
Xylitol is a very common sweetening agent in many toothpastes. It is a sugar alcohol naturally sourced from plants and specific trees but, unlike sugar, xylitol doesn’t create cavities and tooth decay.
Humectants are inactive ingredients that give toothpaste its smooth texture and prevent it from drying up. Glycerol and sorbitol are the most commonly used humectants.
If you are searching for a toothpaste that reduces stains on your teeth, then look for peroxide, a common whitening agent.
What About Ingredients to Avoid?
There are several ingredients that you must consider carefully. Get input from your dentist if you are unsure about any of the following:
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
SLS is a controversial ingredient. It causes the foaming characteristic in toothpaste and helps wash off bacteria, plaque, and food particles from the teeth. However, there is also evidence that stomatitis or mouth sore sufferers that use toothpaste with SLS will develop more irritation.
Triclosan is added to many consumer products with the intent of reducing or preventing bacterial contamination. It is readily absorbed into the body so it is important to know what effects it may have on humans.
There are numerous ongoing studies on these effects on humans. One to note in particular shows that TCS is an endocrine-disrupting chemical in multiple animals, including humans. There is also evidence that triclosan is a contributor to bacterial resistance in the general population. Ask your dentist for advice.
Propylene glycol is added to many products, including toothpaste, to improve shelf life, appearance, and texture. In large quantities, this ingredient has been linked to damage to the central nervous system, liver, and heart. In practical terms, this means that people who have kidney or liver disease already may not be able to break down propylene glycol. Get input from your healthcare team.
Parabens, like methylparaben, are also used to preserve the shelf life of products, including toothpaste. Currently-ongoing studies indicate that parabens can mimic estrogen and destroy hormone function. Others show that parabens may lead to breast cancer and are linked to developmental and reproductive issues. The Food and Drug Administration is still testing the safety of parabens. Check with your dentist.
Diethanolamine (DEA) in toothpaste helps prevent tartar buildup and reduces plaque. However, the American Dental Association (ADA) suggests avoiding toothpaste containing DEA. This ingredient can react with other ingredients to form nitrosamines, which are toxic to humans.
It’s also possible that diethanolamine (DEA) may have carcinogenic effects and cause allergic reactions, particularly in people with certain health conditions. There are also concerns that it is a hormone disruptor.
Many of these studies are ongoing so check with your medical team, including your dentist, for the latest information as you choose toothpaste now and in the future.
For the Best Toothpaste Options, Look For the ADA Seal
The ADA evaluates the ingredients, both active and inactive, in toothpaste. So, as you ask the question, “What is the best toothpaste for me?” look for the ADA designation on any product you consider. The Seal also indicates that the added colors and flavors, the abrasiveness, and all other ingredients are safe and have proven to be effective. You can trust the Seal of Acceptance in your search for the best toothpaste for your needs.
We Are Part of Your Team!
It can feel overwhelming when trying to pick out the best toothpaste. You may feel like you want to simply grab the nearest (or cheapest) option and head for the cash register. It shouldn’t be an impulsive decision, though, because it does have a significant impact on your oral health.
Ask for our expert advice here at TLC Dental Center. Our team is here to help! We will be glad to provide recommendations to help you choose the best toothpaste for your dental needs.
Contact us today with any questions you may have or to schedule an appointment!