What kind of toothpaste should I use?” As a dental hygienist, I get this question often. It can be overwhelming trying to decide what kind to buy because there are so many brands and variations of products on the shelves. The answer is not completely black and white.
For most people, I tell them to use whatever kind of toothpaste they like that makes them want to brush their teeth as long as it meets a couple of criteria.
The first criteria is that it should have fluoride in it. Fluoride is important because it helps protect the teeth from decay (i.e. cavities). There is a lot of misinformation spread about fluoride and a lot of it has to do with ingesting fluoride (water fluoridation or supplements) so be critical of the sources of the information. Toothpaste topically applies fluoride which is scientifically proven to help reduce the rate of decay. Over the counter toothpastes usually either contain sodium fluoride or stannous fluoride. Both kinds of fluoride protect against decay and can help with sensitivity. Stannous fluoride is advantageous because it has antimicrobial properties, which is beneficial for the gums. The downside to stannous fluoride is that in some individuals, it can cause staining of the teeth. If you are experiencing staining and not consuming the usual suspects that cause it, such as red wine, coffee, tea, berries, etc. you may want to check your toothpaste and mouthwash to see if it is has stannous fluoride. All you have to do to check is look at the back label and it should say at the top under “active ingredients”. There is a lot more that can be said about fluoride, but we’ll leave that for another blog.
Another factor to consider is some of the “extra” ingredients manufacturers like to put in toothpaste. Some of those ingredients can be really harsh on the soft tissues in your mouth. For this reason, some people opt for a natural toothpaste (be sure to make sure it has fluoride in it though, because oftentimes natural toothpastes do not include it). If you want to pick a more conventional toothpaste, just be sure to avoid toothpastes that make claims of “whitening” or “tartar control”. These ingredients are known to make teeth sensitive and can cause mucosal sloughing.
For people who struggle with sensitive teeth, we strongly recommend using a toothpaste for sensitive teeth. The active ingredient is potassium nitrate and it helps block the sensory input from the outside of the tooth to the inside where the nerve lies. But remember to avoid any sensitivity toothpaste that claims to whiten, because the whitening ingredients undermine the power of the desensitizer. Additionally, whitening toothpastes don’t actually whiten your teeth because they are not in contact with your teeth long enough. It is mostly a marketing tactic because most people want white teeth, so they buy it thinking it will work.
If over the counter sensitivity toothpastes aren’t providing enough relief, let us know because we have an even stronger product available in our office called MI Paste One. It combines the power of sodium fluoride, potassium nitrate and bio-available calcium and phosphate minerals to create a super-powered desensitizing toothpaste that can also help re-mineralize teeth. This product is not available over the counter.
For the most part, the kind of toothpaste you use isn’t nearly as important as the toothpaste advertisements make you think. What is most important is to be brushing at least twice a day and cleaning in between the teeth with floss, waterpik or other interdental tools, at least once a day. The type of toothpaste is a nominal factor in comparison.
As always, if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask any of us at the office.
Written By: Anna Hautzenrader, RDHDr. Amanda Delwiche, DDS