We’d wager your last tube of toothpaste was selected for its packaging and price rather than contents.
Phrases such as “max whitening”, “enamel protection” and “extreme clean” blare from the box, but what chemicals are used to deliver on these promises?
With so many brands competing for your cash – some using chemicals with unproven benefits – MH looks beyond the marketing spiel to find out if you’re being rinsed.
1. BE SENSITIVE
Unless you have sensitive teeth, the only ingredient you need is fluoride. According to the British Dental Health Foundation, your toothpaste should have between 1350 and1500 parts per million to shield enamel against plaque and acid. If sensitivity is the issue, the desensitising agent strontium chloride will block pain like a mini Mayweather. You want to smile, not grimace.
2. THE WHITE CHOICE
Whitening brands talk a good game. In reality, the British Dental Journal reports, most pastes fall short on chemical stain removal. At most they lift surface stains, but they can’t change the base colour – you need heavy artillery and the dentist for that. Head to the kitchen instead, rinsing your mouth with bicarbonate of soda post-coffee helps to temper discolouration.
3. FIND FRESH EVIDENCE
If your breath makes children wince, you might have tried out an anti-odour paste containing antibacterial triclosan. But the jury’s still out on it; in one study it led to a 22 per cent reduction in gingivitis, “but evidence for it being beneficial in gum disease is unclear”, says restorative dentist Professor Ian Needleman. The bad-breath smell can often be bacteria on your tongue – give it a scrub.
4. CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH
Toothpaste foams because of the sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) in most varieties. This works like soapsuds to wash off mealtime debris. But it’s also been linked to mouth ulcers for those who suffer from sensitive gums. If this sounds familiar, opt for an SLS-free version to keep your kisser in peak condition for more palatable activities.
5. LOST IN THE WASH
That gritty quality in pastes is courtesy of hydrated silica, an abrasive used to combat tartar. Beware brands that promise to eliminate tough stains as they often contain belt-sander-strength grit that can harm enamel.
One final word: spit out, don’t rinse. If you wash off the fluoride, many of its benefits are lost. The drop in your dental bills will give you something to smile about.