In this post, we review the most common types of ingredients in toothpaste, what they do and how they protect your teeth.
We hope that we don’t need to be telling you that you should be brushing your teeth! You know that already, right? You have been taking your parents advice and making sure to brush your teeth after every meal to protect your teeth and your overall health.
Still, you may be wondering: What is in toothpaste anyway? How does it work to clean my teeth? Are all the ingredients safe?
Let’s answer those common questions.
What is in toothpaste?
Most popular brands of over the counter toothpaste will contain the same types ingredients. Of course, there are differences but most kinds of toothpaste all work essentially the same.
Toothpaste contains two basic types of ingredients: active ingredients and inactive ingredients.
Active ingredients are the ones that actively help fight cavities on your teeth and reduce the risk of gum disease. The inactive ingredients aren’t there to fight cavities, germs, and gum disease, they are there instead to create the taste and texture of the toothpaste.
These categories of ingredients are basically the same and have been for centuries. The types of abrasives and flavorings we use in our modern toothpaste may be different than 100 years ago but they work essentially the same way.
Common Toothpaste Ingredients
What’s in Toothpaste?
Abrasives are the ingredients in toothpaste that help scrape the food off of your teeth. They will make up somewhere between 30-60% of the toothpaste. The abrasives are very mild, just rough enough to clean your teeth but not so rough that they will hurt your teeth enamel or irritate your gums.
Flouride is a mineral that helps strengthen the enamel on your teeth, which makes them less susceptible to cavities and helps prevent wear from eating acidic foods and drinks. Only toothpaste which contains fluoride can receive an official seal of acceptance designation from the American Dental Association (ADA).
What would your toothpaste be without some flavoring? Definitely not the same. Flavoring agents are one of the major differentiators between different brands of toothpaste. This is why it will be labeled generically as “flavoring” on the box so that the “secret ingredients” of each brand of toothpaste aren’t given away. Toothpaste flavors typically come from non-sugar based sweetening agents, such as saccharin or sorbitol. Any toothpaste with sugar in it will not receive approval from the ADA.
Detergents are the foaming agents added to toothpaste to give you that satisfying foaminess when you brush your teeth. Without the foam, most people feel like they aren’t really getting their teeth clean. The most common detergent in toothpaste is sodium lauryl sulfate.
Humectants are ingredients added to toothpaste help it retain water. They help the texture of the toothpaste remain uniformly soft and smooth throughout the tube. The most common humectants in toothpaste are sorbitol, propylene glycol, and glycerol.
Like many pre-packaged items found on store shelves, toothpaste contains preservatives. In toothpaste they are used to prevent the growth of bacteria, because not only will the toothpaste be on a store shelf for a while, depending on how many people use it in the home, it may need to last several months after it has been opened.
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David Wilhite is a Plano Dentist specializing in gum disease treatment with over 30 years of experience in general and cosmetic dentistry. He can help you with everything from consultation, to a check-up, to cleaning, whitening, and full mouth restoration.
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Toothpaste image: Wikipedia