First and foremost, remember that toothpastes are an adjunct to tooth brushing and flossing. The goal is to mechanically remove plaque and food debris from our teeth, so essentially we can do this without the use of any toothpaste. In saying that, it is better to use toothpaste as it contains some added benefits.
It can be confusing choosing a toothpaste that is best for you and your family when there are so many types available on the supermarket shelves. All with their attractive packaging and promises to prevent dental decay and gum disease.
Putting aside the marketing hypes, most toothpastes contain the following ingredients:
- Fluoride - Fluoride plays an important role in the prevention of decay caries . It is a mineral that helps strengthen the enamel, making it less susceptible to dental decay and less likely to wear down from acidic foods and drinks. Studies have shown that only toothpastes with 1000ppm Fluoride are effective at achieving this effect. You can check Fluoride content easily on the label.
- Abrasives - This component of the toothpaste helps us remove stains and food debris from our teeth. Leaving our teeth feeling cleaner after we brush. Whitening toothpastes are more abrasive than normal toothpastes, but are usually safe to use if you do not have any underlying tooth wear or sensitivities. If unsure, check with your dentist. Be weary of charcoal toothpastes as they are very abrasive. Long term use of charcoal toothpastes can result in loss of surface enamel. In general, a good everyday toothpaste should feel smooth.
- Detergents - Sodium Lauryl Sulfate makes the toothpaste foamy when you brush and help coat the other ingredients on your teeth. If you’d prefer a non SLR toothpaste, there are various brands available that still contain Fluoride. Check out GRIN, Grant, Curapox and Plain Toothpaste.
Other common ingredients are flavours (sorbitol) and humectant (glycerol).These helps make the toothpaste taste and feel better so that the overall brushing experience is more enjoyable.
So how do I choose a toothpaste? I choose one that contains 1000ppm Fluoride, has a pleasant taste, and is not too abrasive. Bonus if it is locally made and owned by an Australian company. Even better if it comes in sustainable packaging and is Vegan. These are my personal preferences.
There are specialty toothpaste for whitening, treatment of sensitive teeth and gum disease. If you have a regular dentist, he or she would be in the best position to give you advice on which might be best for your situation. For sensitive teeth and gum disease, it is important to identify the underlying cause, receive treatment and use the appropriate toothpaste as an adjunct in maintenance and prevention.
If you prefer all natural products, there are many around. You can find them in most natural food stores and online shops. Toothpastes that do not contain Fluoride don’t have the added dental caries fighting capacity but remember that the best way to fight dental caries is to brush and floss twice a day effectively, and visit your dentist regularly for check up, maintenance and care. It is better to use toothpaste than not, but the key reason why we brush our teeth is to mechanically remove the plaque (bacteria) from our teeth. Do this well, combined with a healthy diet, and regular water intake to reduce your risk of dental decay.