Toothpaste, also called dentifrices, are gels, pastes or powders that remove the bacterial plaque that forms on the teeth surfaces and gums and helps maintain good oral hygiene
. They are brushed on teeth with a toothbrush and are rinsed off.
Teeth improve our appearance and take part in the first step of digestion – chewing of food. The teeth that appear in our teenage years cannot be naturally replaced in later years. Poor tooth and gum health can result in bad breath
. This highlights the importance of maintaining our teeth to prevent damage.
Our teeth are constantly exposed to damaging factors. Bacteria from the mouth form a film over the teeth called plaque. In the presence of sugar containing foods, the bacteria produce acids which damage the tooth enamel and produce tooth decay
and gum problems. The plaque may get hardened to form tartar. Tartar recedes gums and promotes further plaque formation.
What Does a Toothpaste Contain?
Toothpaste normally contains the following components, along with water:
- Mild Abrasives: These are the cleaning and polishing agents in a toothpaste that remove debris and stains on the teeth. They should be mild enough so that they do not erode the dental enamel. They are usually chalk or silica based such as sodium metaphosphate, dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, zirconium silicate, calcium pyrophosphate or silica.
- Binding Agents bind the solid and liquid components of the toothpaste and prevent their dissociation, thereby stabilizing the toothpaste. They are usually cellulose based, for example, sodium carboxy-methyl cellulose or derived from xantham gums, carrageenans or alginates.
- Detergents foam and loosen the attachment of plaque along with other debris from the teeth. Examples include sodium N-lauroyl sarcosinate and sodium lauryl sulphate.
- Flavouring, Sweetening and Coloring Agents:
Flavoring agents commonly used to improve the taste of toothpaste are
wintergreen, peppermint, cinnamon and
- Humectants preserve water in the paste and prevent it from hardening when exposed to air. Therefore, when we squeeze the toothpaste tube, a nice, well-ordered and smooth paste is released from the tube. Examples include sorbitol, glycerol and propylene glycol.
- Preservatives prevent bacterial growth in the toothpaste. Benzoates, alcohol, formaldehyde and di-chlorinated phenols are commonly used preservatives in the toothpastes.
- Fluoride and Other Therapeutic Agents: Fluoride is an important component of toothpastes. Many kinds of toothpastes also contain other medicinal substances like triclosan to enhance gum health or pyrophosphate to stop the formation of dental plaque and tartar.
What are the Types of Toothpastes?
The different types of toothpastes available in the market are:
- Desensitizing Toothpaste - The main ingredient in desensitizing toothpaste is potassium nitrate or arginine. Desensitizing toothpastes reduce pain in sensitive teeth. It is recommended to consult your dentist before using the desensitizing toothpaste.
- Anti-plaque Toothpaste - This toothpaste contains ingredients like triclosan or zinc citrate, which prevent plaque accumulation and gum disease.
- Anti-decay Toothpaste - This kind of toothpaste consists of fluoride compounds like stannous fluoride (SnF2), sodium fluoride (NaF), or monofluorophosphate (MFP2), which prevent tooth decay. It is believed that toothpaste containing 1350-1500ppm of fluoride are highly effective in preventing dental caries.
- Teeth Whitening Toothpaste - The intention of using this toothpaste is mainly for cosmetic purpose. It consists of coarse abrasives, which remove stains from the teeth surfaces. The demand for this dentifrice on the rise due to the increasing desire for white teeth by the middle-aged and elderly, as enamel loses its white appearance with the growing age. Whitening toothpastes should not be used by children.
- Anti-calculus Toothpaste - This toothpaste contains ingredients like pyrophosphate or zinc citrate. It is claimed to retard the calcification of dental plaque and calculus formation. .
- Natural Toothpaste - This toothpaste is made from herbal extracts and other natural ingredients, like seaweed extract, essential oil of ginger, or propolis. Natural toothpastes should also contain the required amount of fluoride, which is vital to prevent tooth decay.
What are the Advantages of Fluoride Toothpaste?
Fluoride is an important component of toothpastes. It helps remove bacterial plaque from the teeth surfaces. It checks tooth decay by protecting tooth enamel and increasing its resistance to acid attacks.
Various toothpaste are available which contain different fluoride levels. Adults should brush their teeth twice daily with toothpaste containing 1350-1500 ppm fluoride. Children till the age of 6 years should use toothpaste of around 1000 ppm.
The quantity of toothpaste should be limited since children have a tendency to swallow toothpaste. A smear should be used in children less than 3 years, while older children between the ages of 3 to 6 years can use a pea-sized quantity. A mouthwash
should be avoided soon after brushing since it can wash off the protective effect of fluoride on the teeth.