A question I am asked most frequently is, what kind of toothpaste should I use? Here is my opinion…
My most simple answer is that it should taste good and contain fluoride.
Technically if you use a toothbrush, floss, and have a diet low in sugar, you do not need to use toothpaste. But so many people, including myself, enjoy the fresh feeling you get after using your favorite flavored toothpaste.
Other important qualities you can look out for in a toothpaste would be fluoride or it’s alternative xylitol (more on that later). Fluorine is a naturally occurring element that is found in rocks, soil, and water. Fluoride is created when a negatively charged fluorine ion meets a positively charged sodium ion. This combination creates the anti-cavity, tooth strengthening effects we desire for our teeth.
As an alternative, or in addition to fluoride, you can use a toothpaste that contains xylitol which is a natural sugar alcohol, found in plants. The bacteria in our mouths can not digest xylitol. It essentially starves the bacteria leading to their death which eliminates their effectiveness to cause cavities. Xylitol can be found in toothpaste, chewing gum, and lozenges. It has the same sweetness as regular sugar so it has an appealing flavor.
Most toothpastes have an abrasive component that helps polish away superficial stains from the surface of our teeth. Whitening toothpastes have a more abrasive particle and I consider it mostly marketing hype. Note: whitening toothpastes do not change the color of your teeth but only smooth away superficial stains from coffee, tea, or wine. If you are interested in changing the color of your teeth, you will need to use chemical whitening products. (*Ask us about our office whitening options at your next visit!)
Toothpastes that have a “sensitivity” component to them are effective against tooth sensitivity. Imagine your teeth are like coral on a microscopic level, the component of toothpastes that reduce sensitivity are superficially plugging up the openings to the tubules at the tooth’s outer surface and prevents fluid movement in the tubule. However remember as you eat and drink throughout the day the openings come unplugged and can become sensitive again, so it is important to continue to use this kind of toothpaste daily. It is not a cure, but a daily remedy for sensitive teeth.
You will see other companies marketing toothpaste qualities such as anti-tartar or anti-plaque that, in my opinion, are fluff. Also some patients have sensitivities to ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate, aka SLS, that causes the toothpaste to foam and is not necessary component.
Ultimately if you have a healthy diet low in sugar you can get by with a toothbrush and floss only, however I do encourage brushing with a fluoridated toothpaste at least two times a day, once after your last meal/snack of the day and again in the morning. I consider night time the most important time to brush and floss. If you want to know more about The Best Way to Care for your Teeth, follow the link here.
Be well, Happy Brushing!
Dr. Madalyn Davidson, General Dentist
30 E. 40th Street
Midtown Manhattan between Bryant Park and Grand Central Station
212 684 6520