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Ingredients to a Happy Smile! Know more about your toothpaste.

The very first thing most of us do every morning is brushing our teeth, but do we know the facts behind it? The claims in toothpaste advertisements often leave us wondering which product is right.

To help cut through the confusion, let me explain some facts about the toothpastes and their ingredients. Certain types of toothpaste are best for specific dental concerns. One should consult their dentists for the right product. For example, one who has sensitive teeth should not use toothpaste that is too abrasive. This can cause more problems.

Basic Ingredients of Toothpastes:

Many toothpastes share these common ingredients.
  • Thickeners to stay on the toothbrush, and squeeze out of the tube
  • Detergents to remove fatty films
  • Abrasive to scrub and remove plaque
  • Water softeners to make the detergents work better
  • Sweeteners and flavoring agents for taste
  • PH buffers to neutralize acidic formations
  • Humectants to prevent water loss and drying
  • Binders to provide consistency and shape
  • Active agents for certain specific functions like desensitizing, whitening, anti-bacterial action
An average toothpaste is about 40-70% humectants and water, 10-50% abrasive (silica or powdered calcium), 1-2% foaming and flavoring agents, buffers, coloring agents, active agents etc.

Effects of Specific Ingredients

While gel may seem a better choice and more fresh, both gel and pastes are considered safe, effective cleaners. The effect they will have on your teeth depends on the ingredients and their percentage. However, some tooth powders are considered more abrasive than pastes or gels.

Some whitening toothpastes have Hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide as a key ingredients and are more abrasive. The peroxide breaks down, allowing oxygen into the enamel of teeth and bleaches them. These abrasive ingredients may lighten and/or remove certain stains from enamel. If used by a person with sensitive teeth, this may result to more sensitivity.

Toothpaste containing baking soda has similar effect as tooth whitening pastes. Baking soda is a mild abrasive. So it is not advised to be used by a person having sensitive teeth. Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda) is added for taste and feel. It combines with acids to release carbon dioxide gas, adding to the foam produced by brushing. It is a mild abrasive.

Gels may seem less abrasive than pastes. But, gels can be more abrasive because of the silica (sand) used to make them.

Toothpaste containing fluoride, delivers fluoride to the teeth. Fluoride incorporates itself into tooth enamel weakened by acid attack, making it more resistant to future acid attack from plaque bacteria and food. This is perhaps the most important function of toothpaste, and is responsible for the reduction of cavities.

Special "desensitizing" toothpastes contain strontium chloride or potassium nitrate compounds. Generally, they are needed when one has had gum recession, thereby exposing the root of the tooth or had an attrition of the outer enamel, exposing the inner vulnerable part of the tooth. Once this exposure occurs, a tooth can be sensitive to hot or cold temperatures or sweet and sour foods. The molecules in the desensitizing pastes protect by blocking tiny tubules leading to the nerve. These pastes should be used for at least a month to get therapeutic effects.

Some "tartar control" toothpastes contain sodium pyrophosphate, which sticks to the tooth above the gum line to help stop tartar buildup. They remove calcium and magnesium from the saliva, so they can't deposit on teeth as insoluble deposits called tartar (calcified plaque).However, this paste will not remove existing tartar.

Some toothpaste containing triclosan may also remove bacteria that can cause gum disease.

Some Facts:

  • If you do not give much thought to the toothpaste you use, you could be harming your teeth.
  • For best results, brush with a fluoride toothpaste for 2 minutes at least twice a day using a soft bristled toothbrush.
  • Do not use whitening paste every time you brush; use it only once every day or two. Certain brands can be more abrasive than others. Brands with sodium pyrophosphate are very abrasive.
  • Your brushing technique (style) is more important than the brand of toothpaste you purchase. So it is important to learn a proper technique from your dentist.
  • The amount of toothpaste or gel needed on your brush for effective cleaning is only pea-sized.
  • Flossing at least once a day is also very important because it removes food and plaque from between teeth where even the best toothbrush and toothpaste are ineffective.
  • Plaque (mixture of saliva and bacteria appearing as a whitish layer on tooth surface) re grow on clean teeth about 4 hours after brushing.
  • All toothpastes are more effective after a dental cleaning (Scaling). This allows the toothpaste ingredients to treat on a clean surface.

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