Toothpaste or dentifrice is a paste or gel used to clean the teeth. Toothpaste use can promote good oral hygiene:
it can aid in the removal of dental plaque and food from the teeth, in fighting halitosis,
and deliver active ingredients such as fluoride to prevent tooth decay and gums disease.
The abrasive ingredients of a tooth paste help to remove food stains from teeth and polish tooth surfaces.
Although toothpaste was used as long ago as 500 BC in ancient Egypt, China and India, it was not until the 19th century that toothpastes came into general use.
Ancient tooth powders used abrasive ingredients such as crushed bone, burned and crushed egg, snail or oyster shells, which were used to clean debris from teeth.
First 'modern' toothpastes in the 1800s were home made, with chalk, soap and salt as common ingredients and were sold in jars either as a powder or paste.
A dentist in US was the man who invented tooth paste tube, in 1892. The most important breakthrough in the history of toothpaste was the addition of fluoride
in a toothpaste in 1914. Fluoride use in toothpastes became widespread much later in the 1950's.
A modern toothpaste has much more ingredients than those some years ago.
New toothpaste ingredients have been introduced in order to provide effective protection against various dental conditions.
The most common active ingredients in toothpastes are :
- Fluoride is the most popular active ingredient in toothpaste due to its proved ability to prevent cavities.
Most toothpaste brands use Sodium fluoride (NaF); some brands use Sodium Monofluorophosphate - SMFP (Na2PO3F).
The concentration of fluoride in a toothpaste for adults is 1000 to 1450 ppm max.
- Antimicrobial agents that fight the bacteria of dental plaque.
There are two kinds of antibacterial agents used as ingredients of toothpastes :
- bactericidal agents as Triclosan that kill bacteria. Triclosan induces damage and lesions to the cell wall of bacteria resulting in bacteriolysis (death of the cell).
- bacteriostatic agents as Zinc (Zinc chloride or Zinc citrate) that stop the growth of dental plaque bacteria by inhibiting their metabolism.
The combination of a bacteriostatic with a bactericidal agent as toothpaste ingredients is the most effective one to fight dental plaque and gum disease.
- Surfactants (detergents) and Foaming agents that help to carry away debris from the mouth and between the teeth.
Common foaming ingredients in toothpastes are Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and ammonium lauryl sulfate.
- Anti-tartar agents as Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate (TSPP).
Pyrophosphates are water-softening agents that remove calcium and magnesium from the saliva,
so they can't deposit on teeth creating dental tartar (calcified plaque).
Pyrophosphate does not remove tartar, it merely helps prevent its formation.
- De-sensitising agents to relieve tooth sensitivity.
Strontium chloride works by blocking the tiny crevices (microtubules) that enable cold and heat sensations to reach the tooth's nerve.
Potassium citrate and Potassium nitrate work in a different way by blocking the mechanism of pain transmission between nerve cells.
- Abrasives : Calcium phosphate (chalk) and alumina were used as the abrasive base of tooth pastes but they had the disadvantage
of reacting with other chemical ingredients. Today the common abrasives are Silicon Dioxide (silica) and Titanium Dioxide.
Hydrated silica is a transparent abrasive used not only in white opaque tooth pastes, but in gel toothpastes as well.
- Baking Soda (Sodium bicarbonate) is a mild abrasive.
It has a mild whitening action and helps to keep an alkaline enviroment (not friendly for dental plaque bacteria) in the mouth.
- Teeth Whitening agents : the whitening toothpastes, except of the mechanical whitening action of toothpaste abrasives,
use extra whitening ingredients as the Hydrogen Peroxide or Sodium carbonate peroxide that breaks down into sodium carbonate (washing soda) and hydrogen peroxide.
- Flavor. Toothpastes come in a variety of flavors, most often being some variation on mint.
- Additional ingredients such as enzymes, vitamins, herbs, calcium, mouthwash are often included in the formulas.
Other non active ingredients in toothpaste are humectants, coloring thickeners, water softeners and sweeteners as sodium saccharin.
Today you can find in the market many different types of toothpastes, with a variety of active ingredients for specific dental problems, more than ever before in the history of toothpaste.
Some of the types of toothpastes that are available today in the market are :
- Anti-Caries / Cavity Protection toothpastes contain fluoride to stop tooth enamel decalcification and protect teeth from tooth decay and cavities.
- Plaque & Gingivitis Prevention toothpastes have additional antibacterial ingredients to fight the growth of bacteria and the formation of dental plaque.
- Tooth Whitening toothpastes have either higher abrasion value than normal tootpastes to mechanically remove food, smoking and other stains from teeth,
or/and special ingredients as Peroxide for teeth bleaching and whitening.
- Sensitivity toothpastes contain desensitising agents to relief those with tooth sensitivity problems from the acute pain
when teeth are exposed to hot or cold temperatures or sweet and sour foods.
- Tartar Control toothpastes contain pyrophosphates that reduce new tartar build-up (but they can't remove the existing tartar).
- Fresh Breath toothpastes contain enhanced flavoring agents along with antibacterials to fight halitosis and provide fresher breath.
- For Children with pleasant flavors and colors for kids, and lower concentraton of fluoride (500-1000ppm) to prevent cases of fluorosis
- Choose a tooth paste that contains fluoride. Fluoride toothpastes are proven to prevent cavities.
- Consult your dentist or hygienist about your oral health's greatest needs and look for products within that category (for example, within the tartar control brands or within the desensitizing toothpaste brands).
- If you have a tooth sensitivity problem avoid the use of whitening toothpastes.
- Your personal preference is important. Choose the tooth paste that tastes and feels best for you.
- If you do not have the expected results, don't blame immediately the selected toothpaste.
Check first if it is the appropriate tooth paste for your kind of dental problems and second make sure that you use correct toothbrushing technique.
- If you find that certain ingredients in toothpaste are irritating to your teeth or gums, try changing toothpastes.
If the problem continues, see your dentist.
Toothpastes for adults
What a toothpaste must have in order to meet your needs for proper dental hygiene :
- Fluoride, to fight tooth decay
- Antibacterial agent, to fight dental plaque and protect from gum disease
- Additional ingredients according to your specific dental problems (sensitivity, gingivitis...)
- Have a plastic tube and low abrasion value
Toothpastes for children
Especially for the children toothpastes :
- The fluoride concentration must not exceed 1000ppm fluoride
- Have a pleasant taste
- Not to contain sugar
- Have a pleasant and amusing appearance
Daily oral hygiene is essential for maintaining oral health. It should also be combined with proper healthy diet and regular dental visits.