What’s in your toothpaste?
Toothpaste was first mass-produced in 1873 and was available in a powder form made form such products as brick dust or crushed china. In the 19th century, glycerin was added, turning the powder into paste. Yuck, yuck, and more yuck. Today our toothpaste can be found with a lot of other ingredients. Do you know what is in your toothpaste or what you should look for in a toothpaste? Toothpaste ingredients typically consist of:
- Mild abrasives to remove debris and residual surface stains. Examples include calcium carbonate, dehydrated silica gels, hydrated aluminum oxides, magnesium carbonate, phosphate salts and silicates.
- Fluoride to strengthen tooth enamel and remineralize tooth decay. All ADA-Accepted toothpastes contain fluoride.
- Humectants to prevent water loss in the toothpaste. Examples include glycerol, propylene, glycol and sorbitol.
- Flavoring agents, such as saccharin and other sweeteners to provide taste. Flavoring agents do not promote tooth decay. (No ADA-Accepted toothpaste contains sugar or any other ingredient that would promote tooth decay.)
- Thickening agents or binders to stabilize the toothpaste formula. They include mineral colloids, natural gums, seaweed colloids or synthetic cellulose.
- Detergents to create foaming action. They include sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium N-Lauryl sarcosinate.
- Some toothpastes contain ingredients such as potassium nitrate or strontium chloride to help reduce tooth sensitivity.
- Stannous fluoride and triclosan help reduce gingivitis, a mild inflammation of the gum tissue.
- Pyrophosphates, triclosan and zinc citrate help reduce a build up of hardened plaque, called tartar.
- Some ingredients, such as triclosan, have been shown to help reduce bad breath.
What can cause a toothpaste to be harmful?
All toothpaste usually has some type of abrasive product in the ingredients to remove stain and debris. It is listed as silica (or calcium carbonate or dicalcium phosphate). You will see more silica added to whitening and tartar control toothpaste. Toothpaste ads report that the bleach in toothpaste whitens teeth. It is actually the tiny bits of silica that removes the stain and dry’s the enamel surface…drying out the enamel surface can give the false look of our teeth being whiter! The actual bleaching agents in toothpaste, like carbamide peroxide, does not stay on the tooth surface long enough in normal brushing to change the color of the enamel. Toothpaste companies also add more silica to the paste when advertising tartar control, making the paste abrasive. Over time, brushing 2 to 3 times a day with an abrasive paste, will cause problems. You can end up having sensitivity to cold, air, salty or sweet foods, and experience gum recession or have to replace dental work. It can even ruin the glaze on your porcelain or resin restorations! No one wants dull teeth, right?!
How abrasive a paste is can be determined by using a “Relative Dentin Abrasivity”, or RDA, scale. It is important to use toothpaste that is on the low to medium range of RDA scale. What are our recommendations? Colgate Regular or Colgate Total, which have an RDA of 68 and 70 respectively. Be good to your teeth and gums!