Every dentist has been asked by patients which toothpaste is best?
Like choosing the best toothbrush, selecting the best toothpaste can be a real challenge. I mean, there is now almost half a supermarket aisle dedicated to toothpastes, so it can be very, very confusing.
Like many things today, where technology and marketing collide, consumers now have so many choices that making a decision can leave a person feeling overwhelmed. Toothpaste is definitely in that category. Somewhere along the way to growing awareness around oral health, toothpaste has taken on a life of its own.
If you’re confused about toothpaste, you can relax. With the tips I share here, you’ll have enough information to make a sound choice about which is the best toothpaste for you and your family.
Toothpaste? Why are we using it anyway?
I think many patients would be surprised to learn they can clean teeth effectively without toothpaste. While it may not be ideal long term, the mechanical action of daily brushing, combined with regular flossing, goes a long way to keeping teeth clean and free of bacteria.
Toothpaste then, is like the metaphorical icing on the cake. It’s nice to have. Having said that, using toothpaste is definitely better than not using it. A bit like smiling everyday, each one of us should include toothpaste in our oral hygiene regime. However, sound tooth brushing and flossing techniques are essential too. If by some chance, you find yourself right out of toothpaste, don’t fret. Simply brush without it. You’ll still receive the benefits of brushing until you can top up on your toothpaste.
So why have toothpastes at all? Putting aside the marketing hype around every new toothpaste ingredient, toothpaste does have an important role in keeping teeth clean.
The best toothpastes help with keeping your teeth, mouth and gums clean. They also strengthen teeth, fight plaque and bacteria, whiten the surface of teeth, and prevent bad breath (halitosis). Not all toothpastes do all these things, but many of them do.
Let’s delve into the detail to find out how to decide which is the best toothpaste for your specific needs.
What should you look out for in the best toothpastes?
First and foremost, you want a toothpaste that cleans. In simple terms, it should be effective at removing food debris and plaque.
Something to note here: you’re probably aware toothpastes contain ingredients that give them a gritty texture. While this abrasion is good, too much can work against the longevity of your teeth, even causing irreversible damage in some cases.
Consider this, if you’re brushing twice a day and each time you brush, you’re brushing down the surface of your teeth by 1/1000th of a millimetre, over a couple of years, you’ll have worn down the tooth surface. It doesn’t sound like much, but over time, it adds up.
Keep in mind you want a toothpaste that cleans, but look for one that isn’t too abrasive. Instead, the best toothpaste will have a smooth feel to it. How do you check that? See if your toothpaste feels gritty or sandy. If it does, it’s a good idea to find an alternative. Irreversible damage caused by toothpaste is something you definitely don’t want.
The best toothpaste will strengthen teeth
One of the main benefits of using the best toothpastes is they strengthen teeth.
How? Through a key ingredient, fluoride.
The inclusion of fluoride in toothpaste means you’re effectively applying something which will harden the outer armour of your teeth, strengthening the outer surface. Just be aware however, there are different types of fluorides in toothpaste. Confused? Don’t be. Simply check in with your with your local dentist. He or she will be able to provide guidance about the amount of fluoride to look out for in your toothpaste. This can be an important distinction to make, particularly for children (read on to learn more about kids’ toothpastes).
The other point to mention about toothpastes is that people with a higher risk status for tooth decay need a higher fluoride concentration in the toothpaste they use. This would only be on the recommendation of the dentist, so if you think this might apply to you, be sure to ask at your next dental visit.
Do we need antibacterial ingredients in our toothpaste?
Right now, antibacterial agents are getting plenty of media as a toothpaste ingredient. Marketed as the next big thing, antibacterial agents in toothpaste prevent plaque from forming and bad breath.
When it comes to antibacterial ingredients, here’s my recommendation: if you’re brushing twice a day and flossing most days, a toothpaste with antibacterial ingredients isn’t necessary. Of course, removing plaque is a big benefit, however, with a solid oral hygiene regime, including regular cleans with your dentist, your money can be better invested. And if you’re looking for a toothpaste with antibacterial formulations, just realise not all include them, so be sure to read the packaging and do your research.
Wondering which toothpaste to buy? Let me help out. I’m happy to recommend Colgate Total for the reason that the antibacterial effect it has goes beyond the immediate clean. Other reasons I recommend Colgate Total is that it’s not too abrasive, cleans well, and it has the right amount of fluoride for the average person.
With this information in your back pocket, you’ll never find yourself stuck in the toothpaste aisle again!
Do whitening toothpastes really work?
With the heightened increase in cosmetic teeth whitening, it’s hardly surprising that whitening toothpastes have found their way onto supermarket shelves.
What might surprise you is just brushing teeth has a whitening effect, so stick to a regular brush and floss, and you’re already ahead of the game.
However, if that’s not enough for you, whitening toothpaste is definitely an option, although those available as retail products aren’t anywhere nearly as effective as professional whitening products supplied by your local dentist.
One hazard of whitening toothpastes is they can interfere with the bonding materials used in dental work due to a key ingredient, peroxide. In fact, regular use of whitening toothpaste can reduce the amount of time your restoration lasts. If you’re using a whitening toothpaste, and planning restoration work, be sure to tell your dentist. I recommend to patients they replace their whitening toothpaste with an alternative at least three weeks before the restorative work commences. Shiny, white teeth are wonderful, but you don’t want to lose the investment you’ve made in restoring teeth because of the toothpaste you’re using.
What’s the best toothpaste for kids?
As far as possible we want to encourage our kids to develop and maintain good oral hygiene habits. Learning effective brushing and flossing techniques is a big part of that, and by default, so is toothpaste.
For kids, start by using a toothpaste they like. There are several available on the market and these are designed especially for children whose mouths are more sensitive to the stronger taste of adult toothpaste. They contain a lower concentration of fluoride in keeping with age appropriate requirements.
How long before your little ones graduate to grown up toothpaste? I encourage parents to keep their children on kids toothpaste until they’re well and truly competent at spitting into the hand basin when they clean.
Why? Well, we want our kids to have a positive experience of oral health care, and if a toothpaste tastes terrible and leaves them feeling uncomfortable, they’re less likely to be compliant.
The best toothpaste for kids is one they love using. So if you’re found one that works, stick with it!
Is toothpaste with activated charcoal a gimmick?
Like toothpastes with whitening and antibacterial ingredients, those with activated charcoal have grown in popularity.
Working on the premise the charcoal whitens teeth, there’s some debate about the effectiveness of toothpastes with charcoal. If they do work, it’s only to a limited degree. A real drawback to toothpastes with activated charcoal is they have can be very abrasive, and as a result, cause irreversible damage to teeth if used for prolonged periods.
My big tip here is to use charcoal toothpastes with care and in moderation. While they may be mildly beneficial, and don’t interfere with dental work like the peroxide in whitening toothpastes, they’re not as effective as other products used for teeth whitening.
My teeth are sensitive! Which is the best toothpaste?
All toothpastes designed to help with sensitivity work in their own proprietary way.
Addressing tooth sensitivity at a microscopic level, they offer patients relief, which is a good thing. However, it’s important to remember, if you are experiencing sensitivity, there’s an underlying cause that needs to be treated, or the sensitivity will persist.
For example, you might have an acidic mouth environment, that dissolves the surface layer of your teeth, leading to exposure of the nerve endings. Relief provided by the sensitivity toothpaste will only be temporary, and if untreated, may develop into a bigger issue, such as significant tooth wear. This is the ideal scenario to consult with your dentist to investigate what could be contributing to the sensitivity or indeed to get to the “root cause”.
What about natural toothpastes without fluoride?
Occasionally I’m asked about alternative toothpastes that do not contain fluoride, such as ‘herbal’ or ‘natural’ toothpastes. There is nothing wrong with choosing one of these options, however they don’t give the same benefit of hardening and strengthening the enamel. For this reason, they’re not considered to help prevent decay to the same degree as other conventional toothpastes.
Some alternative toothpastes contain antibacterial ingredients, such as tea tree oil and although this doesn’t seem to be a bad idea, they haven’t been shown to have a significant benefit. Others have a remineralising capability with compounds made from casein (a protein found in milk products such as cheese). Although this does not give as much protection as fluoride, it is better than nothing.
Think a natural toothpaste might be right for you? Keep in mind the same principles around the abrasive nature and taste of the toothpaste still apply.
Toothpaste is a part of a healthy life, working as an important tool in your overall oral hygiene regime. Rather than feeling overwhelmed and confused, stick to the principles outlined here to work out which is the best toothpaste for you. And if you’re still having trouble trying to decide, talk to your dentist.
Owned by Dr Les Jabbour, Define Dental is a Benowa dentist. As the Gold Coast’s premier dental practice providing quality dental care to local residents longer than any other, Define Dental has decades of experience of providing exceptional dental care for the local Benowa community and wider Gold Coast region. The team at Define Dental is experienced in helping patients choose the best toothpaste as part of their oral health regime. We work with all patients to assess and activate their oral health journey, and then support them with treatment and ongoing maintenance. Want to know more? Call 5597 2100 to book an appointment.