Many of us have stood in front of the toothpaste shelf in the supermarket scratching our heads in bewilderment at the range of choice. Which one should we buy? Do we need tartar control? Cavity protection? Whitening? Sensitive? All of them rolled into one? With the combinations on offer, it can be hard to decide which one is right for us.
The truth is that most toothpastes are made of the same basic ingredients:
- Detergent – kills bacteria and forms those frothy suds we see when brushing
- Thickening agents – makes the toothpaste into a thick, useable paste
- Artificial sweeteners and flavourings – makes the toothpaste palatable and leaves us with a fresh sensation
- Anti-drying agents – keeps the toothpaste smooth and prevents it drying out
- Abrasives – gently scrub the surface of the teeth to help remove food and stains
- Fluoride – protects your teeth from cavity-making plaque acids by strengthening the enamel
Active ingredients can be added to this generic mix to create a toothpaste that combats specific dental problems. A few examples of targeted toothpastes are:
Sensitive toothpaste contains active ingredients that help to numb the pain when hot or cold substances hit the sensitive areas of a tooth. It can take several weeks of use before you start to feel the benefit but it can be quite effective in dulling painful sensation. However, if your teeth are very sensitive it might be a sign that you have dental problems that require attention, so it’s worth seeing your dentist to find out the underlying cause.
Tartar is a hard substance that forms on the teeth when plaque is not properly removed through brushing, particularly along the gum line. Tartar control toothpaste has active ingredients that help prevent plaque from becoming tartar but if you already have tartar on your teeth you will need to have it removed by the dentist – it’s such a hard material that toothpaste alone just isn’t up to the job.
The trend for bright white teeth has meant that toothpaste manufacturers have introduced many more of these products in recent years. They contain abrasive ingredients that work by scratching the surface of the enamel to remove stains and can whiten teeth to a degree. However, there are concerns that long term use can result in thinning of the protective enamel and it can also dull veneers and crowns. A more effective alternative is to visit your dentist and ask about the professional tooth whitening procedures they offer.
It really does matter that children use a toothpaste specifically aimed at them. Too much fluoride can pose a risk to children’s health so their toothpaste is made with much lower levels of fluoride than the adult version. It is also formulated to be less abrasive to little teeth which helps prevent enamel erosion and, perhaps most importantly, it comes in a range of tasty flavours designed to tempt reluctant brushers!
If you have a particular dental problem, a toothpaste that targets this specifically might well be the right one for you but there also toothpastes that offer multiple benefits or even all-round protection. Most toothpastes on the market are formulated to keep your teeth healthy and in general terms, as long as they’ve been approved by the British Dental Association (and taste nice) you won’t go far wrong!
The best way to ensure that your toothpaste is a good choice for your particular dental needs is to check with your dentist. As well as giving you guidance on commonly available toothpastes, they can also advise you on any specialist tooth cleaning products that you may need for specific problems. For any advice, you can contact us on 01239 820083.