Are You and Your Toothpaste Compatible?

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“Which One is Right for Me?” So Many Options Make Choosing a Brand Tricky

Visit any drug store today, and you will discover an overwhelmingly wide range of toothpastes available. It is no surprise that you find yourself asking, “Which one do I choose?”

Perhaps you could decide based on the brand or price, or even on the specific problem the toothpaste aims to correct. Is this the right way to decide or are there other criteria to consider as well?

The first thing you should know is that there are 7 basic types of toothpaste available. In this blog, we take a look at each type and help you figure out which one might be the best choice for your oral health.

Whitening Toothpastes

Whitening toothpastes often promise you drastic results, which in reality may be minimal. They can also be abrasive to your teeth or cause allergic reactions in certain instances. It is also important to note that abrasives do not change the underlying (core) color of your teeth - they simply remove deposits on the outside surfaces.

The ingredient concentrations and techniques necessary to safely and effectively whiten teeth are only available from your dentist. Store-bought brands aren't strong enough to be effective and may carry increased side effects. For more predictable whitening results ask your dentist about other forms of treatment.

Sensitive-Teeth Toothpaste

These products can be very effective for treating tooth sensitivity to hot or cold drinks and food. For those patients who have experienced gum recession, these products work by providing extra protection on the sensitive, exposed root surfaces of your teeth.  The active ingredient in desensitizing toothpastes (most often 5% potassium nitrate) helps reduce temperature sensitivity in these areas. It will take about four to six weeks of twice daily use before you notice any sensitivity improvement.  They are not effective when used only periodically.

However, toothpastes like Sensodyne and Crest Sensitivity only mask the symptoms. They don’t actually treat the underlying problem. You should have your sensitivity checked by your dentist first, to be sure it is not the result of a more serious problem.

Tartar Control Toothpaste

If your toothpaste has a particular biting flavor, it might contain tetrasodium pyrophosphate, an ingredient that is supposed to keep calcium phosphate salts (tartar, or calculus) from fossilizing on the back of your lower front teeth. A little tartar on your teeth doesn’t harm you unless it gets really thick and you can no longer keep it clean. The most common ingredient used in tartar control products (pyrophosphate) can also cause side effects such as:

·        Increased tooth sensitivity - especially in patients with gum recession

·        Sores on gums and inner borders of lips

It is also important to note that these toothpastes only remove tartar above the gum-line and only a professional dental cleaning can remove the most harmful tartar - the tartar that builds up below the gum-line.

Antibacterial/Anti-Plaque - Gingivitis Control Toothpaste

Some brands claim to help control mild superficial inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) by reducing levels of bacterial plaque.  Some are marginally effective, while others are not at all.  If you suffer from chronic gingivitis, please ask your dentist which toothpaste product is best suited for you. 

It is important to note that these products will not reverse/treat more severe gum disease (periodontal disease).  This must be managed by your dentist.

Cavity Fighting (Fluoride) Toothpaste

Fluoride has been proven effective at reducing caries(cavities) for patients of all ages.  Twice daily brushing with fluoridated toothpaste is recommended by the Canadian and American Dental Associations.  Fluoride has also been shown to help re-calcify early caries - in essence "heal" superficial enamel weaknesses.

Different manufacturers use different formulations of fluoride in their toothpastes.  Studies show that Sodium Fluoride(NaF) is the most effective of the available products.  Fortunately, it is also the most commonly used.

For adults with high caries rates or reduced salivary flow, products with increased fluoride concentrations are available. Your dentist can help recommend an appropriate product.

Baking Soda Toothpaste

With its mild abrasiveness, baking soda was thought to remove stains from teeth.  Recently, however, studies are showing that once mixed with the saliva in your mouth, the abrasive action for baking soda is lost. While not being harmful, baking soda toothpastes appear to not provide any additional benefit to your overall oral health.

Prescription Toothpastes

Prescription toothpastes come with higher fluoride content and some also have tricalcium phosphate formulas, which contain phosphate and calcium. These ingredients are great at actually getting to the root of the problem in people with high cavity rates and sensitivity by repairing damaged teeth. They contain minerals found in your saliva naturally, and they incorporate into your teeth and repair damage caused by acid and bacteria.

The ADA Seal of Approval: If your toothpaste comes with the American Dental Association (ADA) stamp of approval, you’re safe. It means that your toothpaste has been checked for the highest level of safety and performance by an independent board comprised of scientific experts. It goes without saying that all toothpastes that earn the ADA safety seal also contain fluoride, the basic ingredient of all good toothpastes.

While toothpaste is important, it’s not so much what you use but rather how you use it. Proper brushing technique and habits are every bit as important as the kind of toothpaste you use.


Sources: American Dental Association (ADA),,



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