Dentists Provide Tips for Choosing the Best Toothpaste
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month and cultivating the habit to take care of your teeth early in life will help you maintain a beautiful smile well into your older years. The beginning of any good oral health routine is the right kind of toothpaste. Dentists from the American Dental Association (ADA) offer tips for all ages on how to choose the best products for the best smile.
Dr. Ada Cooper DDS, spokesperson for the ADA, reminds us that if you are lazy about brushing and flossing and making regular dental visits, no specialized toothpaste will save your smile. But choosing a brand or type of toothpaste can be overwhelming with all of the options you have to choose from. She offers tips about the various types of toothpastes available to help you make a selection based on your individualized oral health needs.
First and foremost, look for the ADA seal on the toothpaste’s box. “This shows the product has been tested, its claims are legitimate, and its ingredients are effective,” says Dr. Cooper.
Toothpastes now come in variety of forms including not only the traditional paste form, but also gels or powders. They also have a may offer a variety of flavors, such as mint or cinnamon. Ultimately, these factors have nothing to do with the product’s effectiveness. Most toothpastes have the following ingredients in common:
• Abrasive agents. Scratchy materials, including calcium carbonate and silicates, help remove food, bacteria, and some stains from your teeth.
• Flavoring. Artificial sweeteners, including saccharin, are often added to toothpaste to make them taste better. While many people equate the flavor of toothpaste with mint, toothpaste is available in a variety of flavors, including cinnamon, lemon-lime, and even bubblegum (for kids -- or kids at heart).
• Humectants for moisture retention. Paste and gel formulations often contain substances like glycerol to prevent the toothpaste from drying out.
• Thickeners. Agents that add thickness to the toothpaste, including gums and gooey molecules found in some seaweeds, help achieve and maintain proper toothpaste texture.
• Detergents. Those suds you see when you brush your teeth are from detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate.
Remember that the most important ingredient to look for in a toothpaste is fluoride. This naturally occurring mineral has been instrumental in the dramatic drop in tooth decay and cavity occurrence that has taken place over the past 50 years. Fluoride protects the teeth from the acid that is released from the mouth when we eat. It makes the tooth enamel stronger so it is less likely to suffer damage from the acid.
Note – just because you live in an area where the water is fluoridated, don’t think that you can skip the fluoride in toothpaste. Studies have shown that fluoridated toothpaste helps increase the concentration of fluoride in the teeth, even in areas with water supplies containing high levels of the mineral.
Evaluate your personal oral health needs to decide if you need a specialized formulation of toothpaste. For example, if you have yellow teeth due to cracked and eroded tooth enamel which has absorbed color from foods such as coffee and cola, a whitening toothpaste may help bring a shine to your smile. Whitening toothpastes contain mild abrasives that help polish teeth and prevent the buildup of additional stains. Look for a paste or gel that contain modified silicone abrasives such as Rembrandt Deeply White and Ultra Brite Advanced Whitening.
For tartar control, look on the toothpaste label for ingredients such as pyrophosphates or zinc citrate. These chemical compounds have been proven effective to prevent tartar buildup. The tartar control toothpastes may also contain triclosan, which kills some of the bacteria in the mouth that can lead to plaque. However, keep in mind that once tartar has accumulated, only the dentist can remove it. If it is not removed, it can ultimately lead to gum disease.
If you are cavity prone, any fluoridated toothpaste will help remove the bacteria that stick to the tooth enamel, but you may what to ask your dentist about a prescription cavity fighting toothpaste such as Colgate PreviDent. Also, brushing and spitting without rinsing can help the fluoride stick around longer within the mouth, giving the ingredient more time to work.
For those with sensitive teeth or gums, look for a toothpaste that contains potassium nitrate or strontium chloride. These chemicals can offer relieve within about four weeks by blocking pathways through the teeth that attach to the nerves, reducing sensitivity. The ADA approves multiple brands, including Sensodyne.
For children, remember that they should also brush their teeth at least twice a day and should begin flossing as soon as two teeth come together and touch. For children under the age of two, just brushing with a child-sized toothbrush with soft bristles with plain water can be helpful. There are also many children versions of toothpaste for the young ones that do not contain fluoride.
Fluoridated toothpaste should be used in children after the age of two. A pea-sized amount is all they need. Help them to learn how to reach all of their teeth, brush their tongue and gums, and to spit out the toothpaste rather than swallowing it.