We get this question almost every day at Hagan Dentistry. In the not too distant past, you had only a handful of choices when you walked down the dental care aisle at the drug store. People had strong feelings for their brand of choice – Crest, Colgate, and Aquafresh to name a few.
Nowadays, a walk down the dental care aisle can be a blur. It seems like new toothpastes are being released every day. Toothpaste commercials don’t do much to help with the confusion. All sorts of miracle claims are made about toothpastes.
Choosing the Right Toothpaste
For most people, a regular toothpaste with fluoride (0.15%w/v) will be more than adequate. These toothpastes do a great job in helping to prevent cavities and gum disease when used appropriately. You can typically find these basic types of toothpaste on the bottom shelf of the dental care aisle. It may also be beneficial to find one that has the ADA seal of approval. This seal means that the toothpaste has been studied scientifically and found to work well.
For people that have sensitive teeth, they may find benefit in using a toothpaste for sensitivity. An ideal sensitivity toothpaste should still have fluoride (0.15% w/v) in it, but should also include an ingredient called potassium nitrate (5%). The Sensodyne brand is known for having this ingredient, but other toothpastes on the market also contain it. It frequently takes several weeks of using a sensitivity toothpaste before you begin seeing relief from sensitivity.
Sensitivity toothpastes work best on people that have minimal to moderate gum recession. It won’t work well to prevent sensitivity for people with active cavities or broken teeth/fillings. If you have questions about what is causing your sensitive teeth, call our office. We’d be happy to discuss it with you. We also have in-office, pain-free options that can help with sensitive teeth.
Whitening Toothpaste Options
Whitening toothpastes have become very popular in the last few years. Whitening toothpastes typically work by including abrasive particles in the paste that remove superficial stains while brushing. Most people do see some improvement in the whiteness of their smile when using whitening toothpastes, especially people who are frequent coffee, tea, wine, or soda drinkers.
However, since the paste only works on superficial exterior stains, the results are not as good as what can be achieved with peroxide containing whitening trays or strips. Peroxide containing trays and strips can actually penetrate to the interior of the tooth to whiten the actual tooth structure. It is also important to note that neither whitening toothpastes nor peroxide whitening agents will improve the appearance of existing crowns or fillings.
I personally think that whitening toothpastes are fine for short term use. However, I don’t recommend them for long term use because of their abrasiveness. The abrasiveness of the toothpaste can be harmful to your teeth over time by causing premature wear. Furthermore, some people experience tenderness in their gums when using whitening toothpaste, as the abrasive particles irritate them. Several times a year we have patients come see us because their gums are red and sore. After some questioning, many of these patients have recently begun using whitening toothpastes.
I don’t put too much stock in toothpastes that claim to protect or rebuild enamel. I feel that these are mostly marketing claims. All fluoride containing toothpastes provide some level of enamel protection. Fluoride also aids in rebuilding the very outermost layer of enamel after meals.
There are some other toothpastes on the market that may be beneficial for people with certain conditions like dry-mouth or allergies to ingredients. There are also prescription strength toothpastes that can help people with severe sensitivity or who are very cavity-prone.
Feel free to call Hagan Dentistry if you’d like to discuss which toothpaste would work best for you. Also call if you’d like to talk about options to whiten your teeth or to treat sensitive teeth.