With so many different brands of toothpaste on the market, it isn't easy to choose one to use. Toothpastes contain different formulas, and it's the ingredients that tell you what dental problems a toothpaste can address. That's why it's important to read what's on the label. Here are some criteria for determining the type of toothpaste for your needs:
ADA-approved. Choose a brand of toothpaste that carries the American Dental Association seal of approval. This tells you the ingredients in the toothpaste are safe for use and have been tested for their effectiveness in reducing tooth decay.
Mineral fluoride. Make certain a toothpaste contains the mineral fluoride. Although any toothpaste fights cavities by helping to remove plaque from your teeth, a fluoridated toothpaste helps strengthen tooth enamel and remineralize teeth that are in the early stages of tooth decay.
Fluoride-free. In some cases, you may want a fluoride-free toothpaste. For example, if you have a child under age 2 who swallows toothpaste instead of spitting it out, too much fluoride can lead to dental fluorosis. The condition can cause permanent teeth to have white spots or be discolored when they come in. In severe cases, the surfaces of a child's teeth may be pitted.
An allergy to fluoride is another reason to choose a fluoride-free toothpaste. Allergic symptoms may include canker sores, gum inflammation, and an itchy, red rash around the lips. The rash resembles acne and can spread to the cheeks, chin, and nose.
Whitening agents. If it's a whitening toothpaste you want, look for a paste or gel that contains modified silicone abrasives, calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate, or phosphate salts. Whitening toothpastes contain these mild abrasives that help polish and shine teeth, but they won't remove stains that have been there for a while.
The job of a whitening toothpaste is to clean teeth by removing surface stains. At-home teeth whitening kits and bleaching treatments your dentist does in the office contain hydrogen peroxide to remove deep stains in the tooth enamel.
Plaque-fighting agents. Ingredients such as pyrophosphates and zinc citrate fight tartar by preventing dental plaque from hardening. This prevents tartar buildup that only your dentist can remove. Although zinc citrate is considered safe for tartar control, you may experience a metallic taste in your mouth after brushing with a toothpaste that contains the ingredient.
Desensitizing agents. When receding gums or exposed tooth roots are a problem, look for strontium chloride or potassium nitrate on the toothpaste label. Either ingredient acts as a desensitizing agent that can help lessen the pain associated with tooth sensitivity.
Triclosan. Your dentist may recommend a toothpaste that contains the antimicrobial agent triclosan if you have a history of gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums. Triclosan kills some of the harmful bacteria that can cause gum disease. For more help in reducing plaque and gingivitis, look for a toothpaste that contains the ingredients triclosan and stannous fluoride both.