What's in Your Toothpaste?
Depending on the brand of toothpaste you use and if it has any special characteristics (like whitening properties or if it helps target sensitivity), there will always be some variance in terms of ingredients that go into the paste.
But, just as any conscious consumer will care about the ingredients that make up their food, it's also a good idea to be aware of what's in your toothpaste. Unfortunately, we can't possibly cover every single ingredient under the sun, but we can touch on some of the most common ones and provide a little information about them.
Yup, we really can't go a day without mentioning fluoride! This is a chemical found in the majority of toothpastes because of its awesome dental-protective properties. Fluoride helps to strengthen enamel and helps to prevent cavities - we're almost certain you've heard this "pitch" before in any toothpaste commercial, or from one of the members of our team, LOL.
It's such an important component to keeping your teeth strong and healthy that many municipalities participate in a water fluoridation program (so that its protective properties can be farther-reaching - especially for lower-income households) - although it isn't without its controversy. One of the stories from this year involved the Ontario city, Windsor - They had fluoridated water, then removed fluoridation, noticed an increase in the prevalence of cavities and opted to bring back fluoridation. We just can't help giving a *Smug Look* here and saying, "we told you so". Read about it here.
Baking Soda Baking soda is sometimes used on its own (mixed in with a bit of water) or it can be an ingredient in drug store brands. It acts to gently scrub debris off your teeth. Similar to how its gritty texture helps to scrub pots and pans, boiled down to basics, baking soda serves as an 'abrasive agent', which can be very effective in cleaning the surfaces your teeth.
Be careful not to apply too much pressure when brushing though, because when you're too aggressive with your brushing, it can damage the enamel of your teeth - even with greener products like baking soda.
You may know baking soda as a deodorizer around the house - any funky smells from the fridge? Put an open box of baking soda in there. It may also be effective in tackling halitosis - otherwise known as "stinky breath" - read a study about it here.
Similar to the baking soda, the purpose of calcium carbonate is as an abrasive agent - to gently scrub the debris off your teeth. What might be more interesting is that it may help support the uptake of fluoride into the teeth (and make 'em stronger) - read about it here. Another study showed that there may be implications of remineralization of teeth when using Calcium Carbonate in a toothpaste as well.
Hydrogen peroxide is used in commercial products to help whiten teeth. It's also what many dentists use for in-office whitening treatments - just at higher concentrations. It tackles surface stains like the brown colour you get from tea or coffee.
They are generally considered safe for your enamel, when used as directed.
If you ever read the ingredients list off a toothpaste, you might've seen some blue colouring in there. You might think that it's just to make the toothpaste look more appealing (especially for children!), but blue colours can sometimes give off the appearance of making your teeth look whiter. Similar to laundry, using a bluing agent on white clothes will make them look, well, whiter.
In terms of using blue dyes in your whitening toothpaste, it may show a bigger whitening effect (or optical illusion, if you will!) than paste without 'em - See a study about them here.
If you're ever skeptical about toothpastes that come in fruity, candy-ish flavours and wondered if they did more harm than good (because they taste sweet!), you'd be please to know that sugar is not usually an ingredient in toothpaste, LOL. For the record, toothpaste is NOT designed to ensure repeat business at the dental office!!
There are ingredients that have that sweet taste but aren't said to cause cavities. As an example, in some 'natural toothpaste' brands (and in chewing gum), you might find xylitol - a sugar alcohol that may actually help prevent cavities.
Please note, this is by no means an extensive list - just a quick summary of what you can find in many commercial toothpastes.