Toothpaste Confidential

Toothpaste sales worldwide are literally a billion pound industry with supermarket shelves stacked high with every conceivable option. For a substance that performs such a basic function like cleaning teeth, toothpaste formulations can be incredibly complex and controversial. The modern toothpaste is manufactured and marketed to do so much more than just help to clean plaque off of our teeth. There are so many toothpastes available that claim to have amazing medicinal, healing and cosmetic powers that you could be forgiven for thinking that you may never need to see a dentist again! But are we being blinded by science and clever marketing? Do we really need these toothpastes, or can they do more harm than good?

Do we need toothpaste to clean teeth?

Plaque is actually very soft and easily removed, provided it is not allowed to harden and become tartar. Cleaning teeth regularly and effectively is far more important than what brand of toothpaste you use. The general rule of thumb is to brush teeth twice a day for 2 minutes and floss at least once a day. By following a strict cleaning routine like this, you will go a long way to achieving great oral health regardless of what toothpaste you use. It is perfectly possible to clean away plaque with nothing but a soft or medium bristle toothbrush or alternatively you can easily make your own toothpaste by mixing baking soda with water to create a fine paste and then adding a couple of drops of peppermint oil for taste.

Eating a healthy diet will also do far more than any toothpaste for preserving your teeth and gums. A nutritious diet full of fresh vegetables and fruit is the best way to keep teeth healthy and strong. If you can avoid regularly eating foods and beverages high in sugar you can effectively starve the harmful bacteria in your mouth that cause decay.

In a perfect world, tooth decay, sensitive teeth and gum disease would be the exception and not the rule. But that is not the world we live in, nor would we want to!

Here are some of the most common reasons that many people eventually experience poor oral health –

  • Most of us like to eat and drink nice things that are often not kind to our teeth. Sweets, cake, soft drinks, energy drinks, and alcohol are just some of the things that can cause havoc with our teeth.
  • Many medicines can cause “dry mouth” as a side effect. Saliva is nature’s way of cleansing the mouth and teeth and without it, the mouth can become too acidic resulting in tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath.
  • Smoking is not only very bad for our general health it is also very bad for our teeth and gums. It drys out the mouth, causes plaque to build up quicker, releases chemicals and toxins that can be absorbed by the lining of the mouth and exasperates gum infections.
  • Many people find flossing too time-consuming and awkward and as a result they rarely if ever floss the areas between their teeth. This will eventually lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Research has shown that many people overestimate how long they spend brushing their teeth everyday and as a result, they don’t spend enough time cleaning every surface on every tooth.
  • It is vitally important for everybody of all ages to visit a dentist at least twice a year. The dental team will check for tooth decay, gum disease and for any problems with the oral soft tissue. The number of cases of oral cancer continues to rise with Cancer Research UK predicting a further 33% raise by 2035. Regular routine checks could literally save your life. Despite this, many people still put their health at risk by not scheduling regular dentist appointments.

What toothpaste options are available?

There are now toothpastes to cater for practically every dental condition and consumer demographic you can think of, and probably some you could never have imagined. Here are some of the most popular:

Sensitive toothpaste.

Sensitive teeth can occur for many reasons and if you experience pain when eating hot food, cold food or beverages, biting down or eating sweet foods you should have a conversation with your dentist to find out the cause of the sensitivity. Usual causes of tooth sensitivity are cracked or decayed teeth, thinning or erosion of tooth enamel and receding gums. It is also very common to experience sensitivity after undergoing a teeth whitening procedure that uses hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. Another reason that teeth can become over sensitive is from toothbrush erosion, by brushing too hard or with a bad technique it is possible to wear away at the enamel and expose the dentin underneath. For people who’s brushing technique is not up to scratch, switching to an electric toothbrush would be a good idea. Electric toothbrushes like the Oral-B Pro 2000 have built-in pressure sensors that alerts the user if excessive force is being applied and tooth enamel is in danger of being damaged.

Will a sensitive toothpaste really help reduce teeth sensitivity?

Yes: Choosing a good sensitive toothpaste will be beneficial to anyone who experiences pain because of eroded or thinning enamel. The science behind modern sensitive toothpaste is sound, and brushing with a good brand regularly will definitely help. Sensitive toothpaste like Sensodyne Repair & Protect uses effective ingredients like NovaMin to protect the tooth nerve.

Whitening toothpaste.

Teeth can be discolored for many reasons

  • Eating and drinking highly pigmented foods .
  • Genetics, we are all born with different colored teeth.
  • Some medicines discolor teeth.
  • Ageing
  • Smoking.

Will whitening toothpaste actually whiten teeth?

No: Whitening toothpaste can be useful for removing surface stains or soft deposits on the surface of the tooth but they will never actually lighten the shade of the teeth. The Vita Shade Guide is universally used to determine teeth color and it would be impossible for a toothpaste to lighten the teeth by even one single shade. The only way a toothpaste could lighten a tooth by any noticeable degree would be if contained a high percentage of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide which would make it both inefficient and illegal. Toothpaste like Nuskin’s AP24 Whitening Fluoride toothpaste retails for about 5 times as much as other whitening toothpastes but will still not noticeably lighten the shade of the teeth at all.

Having said that, whitening toothpaste can be useful for people who regularly smoke or eat highly pigmented foods and beverages. The abrasive ingredients will help to scrub off stains and return the teeth to their default color. The strength of the abrasives in toothpaste are rated on the Relative Dentin Abrasivity  (RDA) Scale that stretches from 0 – 250. Using a whitening toothpaste like Sensodyne Extra Whitening that falls in the 70-100 range would be a good choice. Toothpaste like Colgate Tartar Protection Whitening has a rating of over 165 and should only be used occasionally because they may actually damage the tooth enamel.

Regenerating Toothpaste

It is important to point out that it is impossible for tooth enamel to regrow or regenerate parts of the teeth that are already missing. Having said that, it is possible to remineralize, repair and strengthen teeth that have been subject to minor erosion. There is some exciting science behind some of the latest regenerating toothpaste technologies with brands like REGENERATE Enamel Science™ using calcium silicate and sodium phosphate to create a crystal structure that emulates natural tooth enamel.

Can regenerating toothpaste remineralize teeth enamel?

Yes: Research does support the manufacturer’s claims and there are real benefits to using a toothpaste like REGENERATE. The downside is that they are expensive and retail for a premium price.

Fluoride Toothpaste

It is widely accepted that fluoride plays an important role in the prevention of tooth decay and most dentists will strongly recommend brushing with a fluoride-based toothpaste. Even though about 95% of all toothpaste contains some form of fluoride there is still a significant amount of people who are strongly opposed to its use. The reason fluoride has become so controversial is that it can be highly toxic if ingested or absorbed in high enough levels. Excessive exposure to fluoride can have a number of negative effects on the human body and in the worst case scenario, can result in death.

Will fluoride toothpaste reduce the risk of dental decay?

Yes: It is clear that if fluoride is available to the teeth during remineralization it will help to make them stronger and more resistant to decay. The beneficial effects of fluoride are more noticeable in children and teenagers between the ages of 5 years and 16 years old, this is when the teeth are developing and maturing and can gain the maximum benefit from the availability of fluoride.

High Fluoride Toothpaste

For people who are at high risk of developing dental decay, there is the option of using high fluoride toothpaste. Most toothpaste contains between 1350ppm and 1500ppm amounts of fluoride but there are more powerful options like Colgate Duarphat that has a massive 5000ppm fluoride content. High fluoride toothpaste will usually only be available by prescription and must be used carefully because of its toxic nature.

Will high fluoride toothpaste reduce the risk of tooth decay?

Yes: But toothpaste that contains between 2800ppm and 5000pmm fluoride would only be used by prescription and under the guidance of a dentist or doctor.

SLS free toothpaste

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) has gained a bad reputation in recent years. Viral internet rumors have claimed that SLS is highly toxic and can cause cancer, blindness, hair loss and skin irritation.  SLS is used as a surfactant in toothpaste to create the foaming action that we are all used to. Despite the rumors, over 85% of all kinds of toothpaste still use SLS mainly because it is very effective and cheap to manufacture. Consumers are much savvier regarding the ingredients in personal care products today so many manufacturers are now producing SLS free toothpaste for people who are concerned about the side effects.

Children’s Toothpaste AND LOW FLUORIDE TOOTHPASTE

Persuading children to clean their teeth regularly can be challenging for parents. In an effort to make the toothbrushing experience more enjoyable for kids, many manufacturers market their children’s toothpaste with sweet tasting flavors and cartoon characters on the packaging. Some companies like Jack and Jill are dedicated to producing toothpaste formulations that are free from any harsh or potentially toxic ingredients sodium lauryl sulfate and fluoride.

Parents may prefer to use children’s toothpaste because they find their child responds better to the sweet flavors and colorful tubes. However, it is important to make sure that young children are supervised when using a fluoridated toothpaste, especially one that tastes nice.  For people who do not approve of the use of fluoride, there are 100% natural toothpastes that are safe, even if swallowed.

Organic Toothpaste.

Many people are particular about the kinds of synthetic chemicals used in their personal care products. It does make sense to take note of the ingredients in toothpaste because the lining of the mouth is sensitive and delicate and can absorb chemicals into the body.

If you are looking for a natural or organic toothpaste check to see if the company has any organic or ethical certifications. Green People are an excellent example of a company who are dedicated to producing products that are free from synthetic chemicals. Their toothpaste range provides adult and children’s toothpaste that are 100% natural.

Cruelty-free toothpaste

Animal welfare groups claim that almost 40 thousand animals die needlessly each year during the testing of cosmetic ingredients. This statistic is harrowing for many people and it is natural to seek out cruelty-free products where no animal has been harmed in their manufacture.However, it can be very difficult to know which brands are truly cruelty-free. To find a toothpaste that is verified cruelty-free check Peta’s website.

Summary

There are definitely toothpastes available that have therapeutic value to the consumer but there are also some that are pure marketing hype and not worth the money.