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What About All of These Toothpastes?

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Go to your local grocery store and look down the toothpaste aisle. The options are overwhelming.

They promise tartar control, whitening, decreased sensitivity, cavity protection – the list goes on!

A lot of people are concerned about what toothpaste is best for them. Personally, I like to be an educated consumer, so here we go. I decided to dive into this two BILLION dollar per year industry and give you guys some insight.

Here is a general idea of the ingredients found in toothpaste:


Abrasives are present in all toothpastes. The best analogy I can think of is sand paper. The courser the grit, the more aggressive it is at removing paint. Similar concept with teeth. The higher the content and larger the grit, the more aggressive it will be at removing stain (coffee, tobacco, tea, etc). A common abrasive is hydrated silica, hydrated alumina, calcium carbonate, and dicalcium phospates. All of these are inactive by themselves. They require the mechanical “scrubbing” motion of brushing to polish teeth and remove stain.


The hottest topic I get on a daily basis is tooth sensitivity. And yes, desensitizers can work; however, you need to give them at least 4-6 weeks. Strontium Chloride and Potassium Nitrate are the most common and they block nerve endings in teeth, mostly on exposed roots.



Just like dishwashing liquid or laundry detergents, toothpastes use detergents as well. Similar to your clothes, toothpaste detergents break down particles on your teeth that would be otherwise insoluble.

You might hear of these called surfactants. A good analogy is how Joy diswashing liquid breaks down grease on pans. The most common of these is Sodium Laurel Sulfate and is also used in many shampoos, creating the foaming action.

Studies have been shown that certain people have increased irritation to sodium laurel sulfate (Journal of the American Dental Association). Sensodyne ProNamel is the most well known.


Of all the components, this is the most beneficial. Yes, there are many anti-fluorites out there. As a professional and reading all types of research, the pros FAR outweigh the cons. In the future, I will be writing an entire post on fluoride and how revolutionary it has been.

Fluoride has the miraculous capability of not only remineralizing teeth where cavities have started, but also strengthening healthy teeth and making them more resistant to softening by acidic drinks. Stannous Fluoride, sodium fluoride, and sodium monofluorophosphate are all possible compounds used in toothpastes.


If toothpastes didn’t have humectants, they would dry out and would need to be mixed prior to every use. They basically maintain the moisture, while binding agents prevent ingredients from separating. Humectants include glycerol, propylene glycol, and sorbitol. Binders include carrageenan (seaweed gum), gum Arabic, and sodium carboxymethylcellulose.


Preservatives are only needed in non-fluoride toothpastes to prevent bacterial growth (sodium benzoate, methyl paraben, ethyl paraben). Fluoride is naturally antimicrobial.

Here’s a quick summary of some different types of toothpastes out there:

"Tartar Control"

The keyword here is prevent. If hardened calculus and plaque have already formed, only your trusty hygienist (Jenni, Donna, and Ginger) can knock it off.

Warning about tartar control toothpastes: they can cause extreme sensitivity, similar to whitening toothpastes.


They remove stains (tea, coffee, tobacco) due to the larger and more abundant abrasives in the paste. If you have sensitive teeth or suffer from gum recession, I would definitely steer clear of these. They will more than likely increase your sensitivity with very marginal results.


A toothpastes that advertises to prevent cavities? How revolutionary (insert sarcasm). Most of these have an ingredient (Tricosolan). The evidence is weak that tricosolan can actually prevent decay, but it can lead to healthier gums.

"Kid Toothpastes"

These are fine as long as they have fluoride, but I don’t think it is necessary to use a children’s toothpaste. If your child is under 3, use a “rice-sized” portion of adult toothpaste on the brush. Over 3 until about 6, use a “pea-sized” portion.

The American Dental Association tests every product on the market. I would look for products with the ADA stamp of approval. That means that the company’s claims about the product have been independently verified. Here is the "approved" items list.

The toothpaste biz is just like anything else. They sensationalize to make you, the consumer, more likely to buy. 

I hope these tid bits help! I’ll be back soon. Thanks!

Jake Bateman

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