“So, what toothpaste do you recommend?”
As a dentist, this is a question that I get asked all the time. And understandably so. There are so many different varieties of toothpastes out there that make all kinds of promises that choosing “the right one” can seem impossible.
But when you get right down to it, there are only a few things that you want to make sure your toothpaste includes. So I’m going to cover those, then talk about something that matters at least as much – good brushing techniques!
So what are the things you want to look for when choosing a toothpaste?
ADA approval. What does ADA approval mean? Quite simply, that the toothpaste in question has been tested by the American Dental Association for safety and effectiveness. Without ADA approval, you don’t really know anything about the toothpaste you’re getting.
It’s kind of the baseline that everyone should start with. And as a nice bonus, every toothpaste that has received ADA approval also contains the one ingredient you absolutely need…
Fluoride. Why fluoride? Because it does two very important things over time:
- It strengthens the enamel of your teeth and helps to limit damage from acids in your mouth
- It can actually reverse early-stage acid damage, because it remineralizes areas that have already started to decay
Bottom line: it has been scientifically proven to reduce tooth decay and help prevent cavities.
What about claims that fluoride can cause health problems? While it is true that fluoride has been linked to a variety of issues, generally this is only when people are given incredibly high concentrations that are hundreds of times the legal limit in the U.S.
Because of this, the benefits far outweigh the potential problems across the board.
Imposters. This one is fairly straightforward. Several years back, a number of toothpastes started appearing in our supermarkets from China. Unfortunately, some of them contained a toxic substance.
Because of this, the FDA strongly urges people not to choose any toothpaste that was made in China. Read the label!
Other considerations. Do you have sensitive teeth? A toothpaste for sensitive teeth may feel gentler. Do you have kids? Flavors that are sweeter or fruitier may appeal more to young ones and make them more inclined to brush. Want whiter teeth? Toothpastes with whitening ingredients can help – though it’s faster and more effective to get a whitening treatment from a dentist!
Good Brushing – Even More Important Than Good Toothpaste
The real secret in how toothpaste promotes good dental hygiene is that it makes you more likely to brush. Because toothpaste makes brushing more pleasant. It tastes better. It makes your mouth feel fresh and clean.
The rest is up to you and how well you follow recommended brushing rules and techniques such as:
2 x 2. It would be great if people brushed their teeth in the middle of the day to prevent food acids building up from lunch, but I also understand that it’s not always easy or realistic. Generally speaking, you should brush twice a day for two minutes each time.
Use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Any more than that just isn’t necessary. You’ll be wasting toothpaste. And with all that foam, it may even be harder to tell how well you’re brushing your teeth. It may sound silly, but it’s true.
Pay attention and be thorough. Most of us brush by rote. We squirt some toothpaste on, put the brush in our mouth, and think about something else. But while brushing your teeth doesn’t necessarily require intense focus, you do need to make sure you’re actually doing it.
That means scrubbing your brush over every tooth – inner surfaces, outer surfaces, and on top – as well as brushing your tongue to get rid of bacteria and keep your breath fresh.
Softer is better. Many people believe that “hard” brushes are better at removing food and bacteria from their teeth because they are more abrasive. But there is a huge downside to this – you can actually do damage to your teeth by scraping too hard. Instead, opt for brushes labeled “soft.” They work just as well and pose less risk to your teeth.
Bottom line: don’t stress about your choice of toothpaste
It doesn’t matter all that much if it’s mint or bubblegum flavored, and most of the brands and varieties touting special active ingredients are only mildly beneficial. As long as you follow recommended brushing techniques and regularly see your dentist, you’re doing the best you can for your mouth.
About The Author:
Dr. Jeffrey Pass, DDS, has been in private practice since 1987 and emphasizes cosmetic, restorative, and implant dentistry. A graduate of NYU College of Dentistry, Dr. Pass practiced privately in Manhattan, NY prior to establishing South Florida Dental Care in 1993. He regularly attends continuing education classes and is a member of the American Dental Association, South Florida District Dental Association, South Broward Dental Society, and the Florida branch of The Seattle Study Club.