Advertisements suggest that we need a tartar control toothpaste for removing tartar, a whitening toothpaste to brighten teeth, and even a gum-care toothpaste to prevent gum disease. Is this all true?
Many toothpastes share common ingredients. The average toothpaste is about 75 percent humectant and water, 20 percent abrasive (silica or powdered calcium), and 1-2 percent foaming and flavoring agents, buffers, coloring agents, opacifiers and fluoride.
Most fluoride toothpastes contain stannous fluoride, sodium fluoride or monofluoride phosphate (MFP).
Tartar Control Toothpastes
Most studies suggest that tartar control toothpastes do not remove tartar. They do seem to prevent the accumulation of additional tartar, however. They do not reduce the tartar that forms below the gum line, which is the area where tartar can cause gum disease. This is why it is important for your dentist or hygienist to perform regular dental cleanings. Many companies, including Procter & Gamble, are currently working to formulate a tartar control dentifrice that also fights plaque and gingivitis.
Toothpastes vs. Gels
While gels may seem less abrasive than pastes, this is not the case. Actually, gels can be more abrasive because of the silica (sand) used to make them. However, both are safe, effective cleaners -- use whichever type you prefer.
Gum-care toothpastes have questionable efficacy. This type of paste contains stannous fluoride as opposed to sodium fluoride found in other types of paste. While some studies show stannous fluoride may be helpful in reducing the incidence of gingivitis, it has also been suggested that stannous fluoride is not as effective in protecting against cavities as sodium fluoride. Any toothpaste containing fluoride is recommended over non-fluoridated pastes.
Baking Soda Toothpastes
Baking soda toothpastes have mounted an incredible comeback in recent years. I have not seen any conclusive studies that prove baking soda toothpastes significantly reduce cavities compared to other toothpastes. Some people enjoy the taste and feel of baking soda toothpastes. The flavor of baking soda may encourage people to brush teeth longer. This is advantageous. However, many baking soda toothpastes may also contain peroxides which can irritate and damage gum tissue. These peroxide formulas can be dangerous. Advertisers have conditioned people to believe that the fizzing action of the combined baking soda and peroxide clean teeth. People think they are getting extra cleaning action from the bubbling activity but there is no scientifically proven therapeutic activity. The American Dental Association (ADA) believes that the current levels of peroxide in toothpaste are safe. Still, peroxide toothpastes are controversial. Peroxide toothpastes are not sold in Canada.
Abrasive "Smoker's" Toothpastes
These toothpastes are not recommended as they can cause recession of the gums and abrasion of tooth structure. The best way to rid your teeth of smoking stains is to quit smoking and then have a professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist.
Toothpastes for Sensitive Teeth
You should have any sensitivity checked by your dentist first to be sure it is not a symptom of a more serious problem. Sensitive toothpastes work for the 80-85 percent of the population that regularly brush with them. Generally, they are needed when a patient has had gum recession, thereby exposing the root of the tooth. Once this exposure occurs, a tooth can be sensitive to hot or cold temperatures or sweet and sour foods. Sensodyne®, Denquel®, Protect® and Aquafresh® for Sensitive Teeth are the major brands on the market. Some brands use different ingredients, including potassium nitrate, sodium citrate or strontium, as their desensitizing agents. If one brand does not reduce sensitivity, try a different brand.
Again, one must be careful when using these dentifrices due to their abrasivity. These should not be used exclusively but should be incorporated into a routine using a fluoride paste. Do not use a whitening paste every time you brush; use it only once every day or two. Certain brands can be more abrasive than others. Brands with sodium pyrophosphate are very abrasive. Rembrandt® is one of the least abrasive whitening toothpastes. I question the effectiveness of whitening toothpastes. If you are serious about teeth whitening, you should discuss this with your dentist.
Brush with a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes at least twice a day using a soft bristled toothbrush. Most people only brush their teeth for about 20 seconds on average! Your toothpaste should also bear the ADA (American Dental Association) seal of approval on the container, which means that adequate evidence for safety and efficacy have been demonstrated in controlled, clinical trials. The mechanical action employed using the proper brushing technique is more important than the brand of toothpaste you purchase.
Contrary to what toothpaste commercials show, the amount of toothpaste or gel needed on your brush for effective cleaning should only be pea-sized. Flossing at least once a day is also very important because it removes food and plaque from between teeth where even the best toothbrush and toothpaste are ineffective. Studies suggest that plaque (bacteria) regrow on clean teeth about four hours after brushing. Brush and floss regularly!
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