What’s in my toothpaste? And Why?
Toothpaste is a necessity. Not only does it assist in disturbing the plaque biofilm and freshen your breath; it also helps promote remineralisation to prevent tooth decay, prevent calculus build up, clean stains and prevent issues like gum diseases (gingivitis and periodontitis).
There are many factors that can contribute to gum disease and dental decay but removing the food and plaque from our teeth is one way we can prevent these diseases. We can do this by disturbing the plaque and bacteria with good oral hygiene habits which includes the manual removal of plaque with a toothbrush (manual or electric), toothpaste at least twice per day and flossing at least once per day.
Plaque that sits on our teeth for an extended period of time starts to accumulate bacteria. When that plaque bacteria gets exposed to refined carbohydrates, especially sucrose, it is then fermented to acid which then starts to break down our teeth.
Toothpaste ingredients usually include an abrasive, humectant, binder, detergent, flavour, preservative and therapeutic agent.
Help remove plaque and debris from the tooth surface. Some abrasive ingredients found in toothpastes are
- Calcium carbonate
- Aluminium oxides
- Silica gels
HUMECTANTS AND BINDERS
Keeps the toothpaste smooth and prevent it from drying out. Common humectants and binders found in toothpaste are sorbitol and glycerol.
Helps to remove the plaque from the tooth surface during cleaning. They also contribute to the foaming of toothpaste. Some detergents found in toothpaste include:
- Sodium lauryl sulfate (NOTE: this can be irritating or drying for some people)
Most commonly - peppermint or spearmint. Sweetening agents (that don’t cause dental decay) are saccharin or sorbitol.
Include titanium dioxide to give it the white paste
- Fluoride: A mineral that changes the structure of or enamel making our teeth more resistant to acid wear and tooth decay.
- Triclosan: Antimicrobial agent which can reduce the formation of dental plaque.
- Abrasive agents such as calcium carbonate, silica or charcoal. Some ingredients in whitening products can just work by removing stains. Long term, this can be too abrasive on our teeth.
- Other whitening ingredients include hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. In most toothpastes these ingredients are added at a very low concentration, therefore may not give you significant results.
You should always discuss using a whitening product with your dental practitioner.
TOOTHPASTE FOR CHILDREN
There are many different brands of children’s toothpastes on the market which are designed for different age groups. The difference between children’s toothpastes and adult toothpaste is the amount of fluoride, the mint flavour is usually milder and they contain a lower amount of sodium lauryl sulfate to reduce foaming and possible sensitivity.
Toothpastes that are aimed for children under 6 years old all contain a lower amount of fluoride (usually 500ppm). Some brands are:
- Macleans milk teeth
- My first Colgate junior
- Colgate Dora sparking mint gel
- Oral-B Children’s toothpaste
Toothpastes aimed for children 6 and over usually contain the same amount of fluoride as most adult toothpastes which is 1000ppm. Some brands are:
- Colgate Spider-man sparking mint gel
- Macleans little teeth
There are also children’s toothpastes that contain 1450ppm of fluoride. Some brands are:
- Colgate maximum cavity protection junior
- Macleans big teeth.
Just to name a few:
- Dr. Bronner
- Jack N’ Jill (children’s toothpaste)
Common ingredients found in non-fluoridated toothpastes are similar to conventional toothpastes, however, they usually contain Xylitol. Xylitol is a non-fermentable sugar alcohol, which bacteria cannot process. This acts to prevent the process of caries.
While fluoride has been seen to strengthen and remineralise teeth, extensive studies on Xylitol have been done to show it can be as effective at preventing cavities and cavity-causing bacteria. Xylitol has other dental benefits as well, like reducing the acidity of saliva to fight acids, increases production of saliva to assist remineralisation and increases absorption of calcium. Another ingredient used (found in toothpaste by the brand Moo-Goo) is Calcium Hydroxyapatite. Studies have shown it makes the teeth more resistant to acid wear and tooth decay.
Other remineralising products like tooth mousse (applied topically after toothpaste) can be used to further prevent tooth decay. The main ingredients are casein (milk protein) as well as calcium and phosphate (major minerals that teeth are made from).
All brands mentioned above in the vegan section have non-fluoridated options available.