Although most toothpastes have similar ingredients, each brand has its own active ingredients which help reduce the risk of gum disease and decay.
The main ingredient of toothpaste that is one of the most important ingredients is Fluoride.
Fluoride helps to strengthen the enamel on your teeth thereby making it less susceptible to decay and wear. Although there are some toothpastes out there that do not contain Fluoride, only toothpastes that contain this active ingredient are part of the Australian Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance.
The inactive ingredients in toothpaste give toothpaste its taste and texture, and although they don’t play a role in protecting your teeth, without them, toothpaste wouldn’t taste or feel the same.
Even though abrasives play an active role in toothpaste as a remover of food, plaque and stains, it is technically considered as an inactive ingredient because it doesn't reduce your risk of decay or gum disease. Abrasives used to be very rough and included things such as crushed egg shells, which were used by the ancient Egyptians, or crushed oyster shells, which were used by the Romans.
Thank goodness today's abrasives are a bit gentler and tend to involve calcium carbonate, dehydrated silicia gels and hydrated aluminum oxides. So the main purpose of abrasives in toothpaste these days is to scrub the surface of the teeth without scratching or damaging the enamel.
Now fluoride and abrasives aren’t known for their delicious taste so that's why you can find a number of flavouring ingredients on a toothpaste tube. Toothpaste flavours come from sweetening agents, such as saccharin or sorbitol and some brands even have fruit-flavours for children's toothpaste. Although these ingredients give the toothpaste a sweet taste, it's important to note that these toothpastes don't contain any sugar and therefore won't cause tooth decay.
Detergent is another ingredient found in toothpaste which provides the foaming action when you brush your teeth. One of the most common detergents placed in toothpastes is sodium lauryl sulfate.
Different brands on the market have their own additional ingredients that help reduce the risk of gum disease and decay. For example, Colgate has a uniquely formulated toothpaste with 0.3% of the antibacterial ingredient Triclosan which fights harmful plaque bacteria, which are the cause of most common oral health problems. Oral B has stannous fluoride as part of their toothpaste which is an antibacterial agent that also provides anti-cavity and sensitivity benefits. Sensodyne has toothpastes that act to either block the surface of the teeth that are porous (dentine) or act on the nerve in your tooth to help with tooth sensitivity.
Some toothpastes contain Potassium Nitrate which acts on the nerves themselves, others have strontium acetate and strontium chloride which help to block any exposed tooth structure. Their advanced, patented NovaMin™ technology is proven to help repair sensitive teeth by forming a mineral layer over exposed tooth structure and help repair sensitive areas. So at the end of the day, so long as you find a toothpaste that you are happy with and are likely to use every day, that helps to protect your teeth and gums then stick with that brand.
The only toothpastes you need to be slightly wary of are whitening toothpastes. Many whitening toothpaste available in the market remove extrinsic staining (surface stains) caused by tea, coffee, smoking, etc. does not change the natural colour of your teeth.
Many of these toothpastes can be abrasive which helps to remove extrinsic stains by scratching the surface of your enamel. By scratching away the stained layer of tooth, the un-stained layer below is what makes your teeth appear whiter. But with overuse and with no extrinsic staining, this type of toothpaste can remove enamel. Teeth can become very sensitive once the enamel is removed as the next layer of tooth structure (dentine) is exposed. Therefore if you are unhappy with the overall colour of your teeth, see your general dentist and talk to them about getting your teeth bleached.
Now you know what can be in your toothpaste!
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