The toothpaste aisle: a seemingly endless lane of flashy boxes with a mouthful of obscure ingredients listed on the back of the package. Selecting one can be an overwhelming task, but a little help from a knowledgeable dental health care provider can make the decision easier. We can help make sense of the contents of toothpaste, and ensure that you choose one that is tailored to your individualized oral health care needs and desired outcomes.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that strengthens the enamel of teeth, making them more resistant to demineralization caused by cavity-forming bacteria and acidic diets. Look under medicinal (active) ingredients for fluoride compounds including sodium fluoride, stannous fluoride or sodium monofluorophosphate. Fluoride concentrations in toothpastes are higher and more effective than the minimal concentrations found in fluoridated city water, so toothpaste as a source of fluoride is important for those living in old Milton, whose water supply currently remains non-fluoridated. It is also a crucial source for children, who are more prone to developing cavities than adults. With that being said, it is important to understand that higher concentrations of fluoride are permitted in toothpaste because it is not intended to be ingested. Children under the age of 3 should use non-fluoridated toothpastes. Children and adults who have trouble spitting adequately should opt for a “low-fluoride” paste containing <600 ppm of fluoride.
Tooth sensitivity is highly prevalent, and is the most frequent oral condition for which I make toothpaste recommendations in practice. These toothpastes produce their effects either by blocking the exposed canals of the tooth that contain the pain receptors (e.g. Sensodyne or Colgate), or by blocking the pain receptors themselves (Crest). There are a number of underlying dental problems that could be the root cause of dental sensitivity or pain — speak with your dental provider about the best treatment approach for your specific oral condition. Should your dental care provider recommend toothpaste to tackle your sensitivity, it is important to note that long-lasting relief is dependent on routine twice-daily use of the toothpaste.
There is an extensive selection of “natural” toothpastes available on the market today, making it difficult to comment on the group as a whole. Generally speaking, these toothpastes have substituted synthetic inactive ingredients, such as preservatives and artificial flavoring, with organic alternatives. Many of these natural options have also eliminated compounds, such as fluoride and sodium lauryl sulfate — a common synthetic detergent that is often under scrutiny for its role in canker sores and oral ulcers. Despite the perks of organic toothpastes, it is important to be aware that many do not contain the active (medicinal) ingredients that have been clinically proven to prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
Don’t hesitate to approach your dental provider with any questions you may have prior to your next venture down the toothpaste aisle!