In the spirit of spring cleaning, we thought we’d take a closer look at the workhorse of dental cleaning products—your toothpaste! We know that it keeps your teeth and gums healthy, but did you ever wonder what it’s ACTUALLY doing for your teeth? Keep reading to find out…
I know this topic tends to be controversial and many “natural” or “organic” toothpastes out there promote that they’re fluoride free, but fluoride is SO important when it comes to helping fight cavities! In fact, the fluoride included in toothpaste is attributed to drastically lowering the rate of tooth decay in the country. Here’s how it works—enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, made up of 96% of mineralized material. That material is mostly a crystal called hydroxyapatite. When exposed to acids due to bacterial break down of sugars and carbohydrates in your diet, the hydroxyapatite can dissolve and lead to the formation of a cavity. This is where the fluoride comes in! The fluoride ions in toothpaste have a higher affinity for the enamel matrix, so it actually converts the hydroxyapatite into fluoroapatite, making the enamel even stronger and harder to breakdown. Fluoride also can help remineralize, or strengthen, areas which are just starting to form cavities.
Still not convinced you want it in your toothpaste? Most big brands only include 0.25% fluoride. (The percentage can go up to 1.1% for high fluoride content toothpastes, but those are usually by prescription only.) That tiny amount is enough to make a difference in fighting cavities.
The Minty Flavor
Truth: this does nothing. Menthol was added to toothpaste back in the early 1900’s, convincing users that the minty, tingling sensation was a signal that the toothpaste was working. But, the addition of the flavor created a drastic increase in use of toothpaste and it’s been included ever since.
This ingredient is typically only included in toothpaste marketed for sensitivity. The potassium nitrate works to block the channels that communicate with the pulp of the tooth, where the nerves and blood vessels reside. Pro tip: if your teeth are sensitive, after brushing your teeth and rinsing take a little bit of this toothpaste, scrub it on the sensitive areas, but don’t rinse it off! The potassium nitrate has an additive effect over time and the desensitizing action takes a little bit of time to start working.
This is the true abrasive in your toothpaste. The tiny, amorphous particles do the scrubbing on your teeth to remove plaque, stains, and make teeth look whiter!
This is what gives toothpaste its white, clean color.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Ever wonder how you get the foaming action from your toothpaste? It’s the sodium lauryl sulfate that creates the bubbles.
This gives the toothpaste its sweetness, so it tastes good while you brush!
Any questions about what your toothpaste is doing for you? Post a comment below or connect with us on social media @Gallery57Dental!