As little as we think about it, toothpaste is a big part of our oral hygiene routine. And while everyone knows the importance of brushing twice a day, the importance of toothpaste is a little more unclear. Some people use a lot, some people just use water, and some people make their own teeth-cleaning solutions. The important thing is to clean your teeth properly and know how toothpaste can help your overall oral hygiene.
Toothpaste Use in Adults and Children
In a 1940s toothpaste advertisement, toothpaste was shown covering all the bristles on the toothbrush. This guided many adults as to how much toothpaste they should be using. However, such liberal use of toothpaste is simply too much.
The CDA supports use of toothpaste with fluoride to help prevent cavities and dental problems, and should be used twice daily. Adults should only be using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste during each brushing. Only a dab is enough to properly clean teeth. Adults tend to overuse toothpaste. When used properly, a tube of toothpaste can last much longer.
For children, there are stricter “rules” for toothpaste use. Parents should always consult their children’s dental professional to determine toothpaste use in children, depending on their risk of developing tooth decay. If at risk, children age 3 and under should have their teeth brushed by an adult to limit the risk of swallowing too much fluoridated toothpaste. Although, if a child is not at risk for tooth decay, the CDA recommends that the child’s teeth be brushed using only a soft toothbrush, dampened only by water.
Children ages 3-6 should be supervised while brushing when using toothpaste, and should remain supervised until maximum dexterity has been reached. For this age group, only a fraction of a pea-sized amount of toothpaste is recommended.
For both children and adults, fluoridated toothpaste should be used in moderation to reduce the risk of developing dental fluorosis while maximizing the benefits of fluoride. Dental fluorosis is not a disease, nor does it affect the structural integrity of your teeth, but it can appear as white streaks on your teeth or slight discolouration. In most cases, the effects of dental fluorosis are subtle and typically only a dental professional would be able to see the effects it has on your teeth.
Benefits of Toothpaste
Plaque is the primary cause of gum disease and cavities. If it is not consistently removed, it can harden onto your teeth and form tartar. Tartar creates an ideal environment for bacteria to grow. The best way to control plaque is by brushing your teeth. But how crucial is toothpaste to your oral hygiene routine?
From a truly practical standpoint, toothpaste is not necessary to effectively clean teeth. Using a soft-bristled brush and practicing proper brushing techniques is enough to remove the plaque from your teeth. Combined with regular flossing, limiting sugary food and drinks, and having routine dentist appointments, your teeth will stay clean and healthy.
So why do we use toothpaste? Because there are many benefits to using toothpaste, other than simply cleaning your teeth. Toothpaste aids in prevention against gingivitis and tooth decay, which leads to more severe dental issues.
- Toothpaste comes in many flavors and helps to leave your mouth and breath feeling fresh after brushing. It can also masks any scents from strong-flavored foods like garlic or onions.
- Most toothpastes contain fluoride, which many dental professionals agree that using fluoride can help prevent against cavities and keep tooth enamel strong by resisting early signs of tooth decay.
- Toothpaste has properties that help other dental problems like tooth sensitivity, teeth whitening, tooth decay, and gum disease.
How Does Toothpaste Work?
Toothpaste has come a long way from its Egyptian origins of rocks and vinegar. Modern toothpastes contain ingredients that help strengthen your tooth enamel and protect against dental problems. Regardless of what brand of toothpaste you buy, there are some ingredients that are standard in all non-organic brands that are responsible for keeping your smile looking bright and clean:
- Abrasives, like calcium carbonite, gently polish your teeth and clean bacterial film from your teeth and gums. They’re also responsible for dissolving stains from your teeth.
- Flavoring in toothpaste them taste and smell appealing. Flavors like mint and cinnamon are common, but some other flavors you can find are lemon and bubblegum.
- Thickening agents such as cellulose gum stabilize the toothpaste formula and and retain moisture so it stays on your toothbrush.
- Detergents are responsible for creating the foamy texture we associate with toothpaste. This foam helps dislodge food remains and plaque.
- Treatment Additives may be added to help prevent specific dental issues like cavity protection, tartar control, teeth whitening, and sensitive teeth.
The most important ingredient that toothpaste can contain is fluoride. Using a fluoridated toothpaste is one of the most significant things you can do for keeping your teeth and mouth healthy. A topical fluoride helps hardens your teeth and promotes an overall healthy mouth.
Organic toothpastes do not contain any sulfates or parabens, and do not have artificial flavoring or colors. For people who have mouth sores or rashes in or around the mouth, you may want to try an organic toothpaste that is void of any synthetic additives or ingredients. People who are active, eat healthy, and avoid foods that are high in sugar may see benefits from using natural toothpastes that are void of fluoride. Healthy diets help your body gain nutrients that help prevent tooth decay – the main reason fluoridated toothpastes are so important. If you are at higher risk of tooth decay or other serious dental problems, your dentist may recommend using toothpaste with fluoride.
No matter what type of toothpaste you prefer, getting regular dental cleanings is important to your overall oral health. If you have any questions about what toothpaste you should be using, contact your dentist today.
A version of this post was first published on Altima Dental Blog