Thursday, September 8, 2011

Toothpaste 101

Dr. Benjamin Coon, D.D.S.
To keep your mouth healthy between dental appointments, at-home dental hygiene habits are critical. Brushing and flossing are the foundations of dental hygiene. To integrate these good habits at home among all family members, quality toothpaste is an essential element. Selecting the right toothpaste for you and members of your family is important.

Toothpaste doesn't just polish teeth; it also removes the bacteria that cause dental plaque and bad breath. As dental plaque bacteria meet with food, they create an acid that attacks teeth and eventually causes tooth decay. A build-up of dental plaque bacteria can cause several other dental problems including gum disease. These microorganisms also produce volatile sulfur molecules which are a source of bad breath.

Toothpaste's ingredients help control mouth bacteria and fight dental problems. Most toothpastes contain detergents that create a foaming action to better remove food particles and dental plaque. Abrasives add a little extra cleaning power to help remove stains but can damage tooth enamel when used too vigorously. Breath fresheners are also commonly added to make your mouth feel clean, and added flavors keep your toothpaste from tasting bland. But the most important ingredient is fluoride, which helps prevent cavities and promote tooth health.

There are many types of toothpastes on the market. Each is designed to fit individual needs:

  • Whitening Toothpaste: Teeth whitening toothpastes don't actually whiten teeth; they use scrubbing materials or chemicals to remove tooth stains.
  • Tartar Control Toothpaste:  Likewise, tartar control toothpastes don't remove dental tartar, but they do help prevent dental tartar from accumulating. Dental tartar can only be removed by a dentist, so it's beneficial to start using tartar-control toothpaste after a dental checkup.
  • Desensitizing Toothpaste: Tooth sensitivity often results from weakened enamel or the exposure of roots due to receding gums. Desensitizing toothpastes work by creating a barrier and blocking irritants from reaching the nerves.
  • Fluoride Toothpaste:  Fluoride is important to your dental health and can be added to any type of toothpaste. Not only does fluoride strengthen teeth against dental cavities but it remineralizes teeth worn by acid and fights sensitivity. Fluoride toothpaste is an excellent choice for those who need a little extra help protecting themselves from cavities, particularly children and seniors. Fluoride toothpastes are also recommended for those without the benefit of community water fluoridation.
  • Gum Health Toothpaste: Dental plaque found under the gum line can lead to gum disease. Although gum health toothpastes are not a professional gum disease treatment, they can control dental plaque and help prevent the possibility of gum disease in the future.
  • Fresh Breath Toothpaste: Like many mouthwashes, fresh breath toothpastes are designed to mask bad breath but do not actually treat halitosis.
  • Natural Toothpaste: For those who are uncomfortable brushing with chemicals, natural toothpastes may be an option. These contain all-natural ingredients but have varied results. Some natural toothpastes may not contain fluoride, so check the label before buying the product.
  • Children's Toothpaste: These toothpastes have been developed to meet the special needs of children. As children are extremely susceptible to dental cavities, their toothpastes often contain fluoride. Younger children should only use a small amount of toothpaste to avoid ingestion and prevent dental fluorosis, and should be always supervised during brushing.
  • Baking Soda Toothpaste: Baking soda has traditional significance because it was once used to clean teeth. Some prefer it because they enjoy the fresh feeling they get after brushing with it.
  • Gels: Some gels contain mouthwash which may be why some prefer the consistency or taste of a gel over a toothpaste. While gels may make your mouth feel fresher, there's no proof that they clean teeth better than toothpastes. Also, many gels do not contain fluoride.
Picking the perfect toothpaste out of the hundreds available can be daunting. Look for the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval. This symbol shows that the manufacturer has participated in a voluntary testing program conducted by the ADA to gauge the product’s safety and effectiveness.

In addition to selecting the right toothpaste, it is also important to brush properly. Here are five important brushing tips:
  •  Brush for at least two minutes
  • Use a pea-sized amount of paste
  • Find a toothpaste for your needs; usually a soft bristle brush is ideal for both children and adults
  • Tilt your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle towards the gums and use short, circular strokes. Small children without well-developed fine motor skills will need assistance with this.
  • Brush at least twice a day.
Toothpaste is a significant part of your oral hygiene routine, but remember it's just one part of your oral health care regimen. Brushing must be combined with other aspects of dental care including flossing, a good diet and regular dental visits.

Dr. Benjamin Coon, D.D.S.
Glenwood Meadows Dental
40 Market Street, Suite A
Glenwood Springs, CO  81601