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More Toothpastes Mean More Confusion

Which toothpaste is the best for you?

Annual toothpaste sales now exceed $1.5 billion and the industry continues to grow with new products, confusing consumers with varying claims of effectiveness.

"Before you visit the supermarket to buy toothpaste, know what it is that you want to accomplish," explains Mike Stablein, D.D.S., a periodontist. "Patients should consult their dentists for the right products; toothpastes that fit each patient's dental care strategy. For example, people who have sensitive teeth do not want toothpaste that is too abrasive and can cause more problems."

Dr. Stablein says that manufacturers are bringing out new products on a much more regular basis, and the result is a consumer who is unsure which brand is most appropriate for him or her. Following is a list of the basic toothpaste types, their key ingredients, and Dr. Stablein's comments about each paste's effectiveness.

Fluoride Toothpaste -- Key ingredient is sodium fluoride. "This paste acts topically and protects teeth by hardening the outer surface, making teeth less susceptible to tooth decay," says Dr. Stablein. "It will not remove decay."

Desensitizing Toothpastes -- Key ingredient is strontium chloride or potassium nitrate. "It protects exposed dentin by blocking the tubules in the teeth that are connected to nerves," she says. "Patients must use the product for at least a month before any therapeutic effects are felt."

Whitening Toothpastes -- Key ingredients is sodium fluoride. "The abrasive ingredients may lighten or remove certain stains from the enamel. However, patients may experience gum irritation or increased sensitivity. Not all teeth will whiten the same way. They are not as effective as in-office teeth whitening."

Tartar Control Toothpastes -- Key ingredient is sodium pyrophosphate. "The key ingredient adheres to the tooth above the gum-line. This paste will not remove tartar; just keep it from forming. Prolonged use may create sensitivity."

Baking Soda Toothpaste -- Key ingredient is baking soda. "Baking soda is a mild abrasive that cleans the surface of teeth. However, there is no proven therapeutic value and excessive use may irritate gums."

Antimicrobial Toothpaste -- Key ingredient is triclosan. "It may remove bacteria that can cause gum disease, but we're still waiting for more definitive results. It will not remove or reduce existing tartar."

Dr. Stablein says that all toothpastes are more effective after a dental cleaning, because the clean surface allows them to work better. "I strongly urge patients to talk to their dentists," he concludes. "These studies about toothpastes appear in our professional dental journals so we always are ready to make recommendations about what is the most appropriate paste for a patient. We are more than willing to help."

Remember, only a dentist can diagnose your dental problems and offer the right treatment plan for you. If you need a dentist, call us at 1-866-970-0441 to be connected with one today.

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