Andrew Schenkel, clinical professor and associate director of the Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care at New York University School of Dentistry, explains that a dentist can evaluate your teeth to determine which toothpaste to use to make your teeth healthier.
“If your teeth are at high risk for cavities, meaning having cavities, a high-fluoride prescription toothpaste might be recommended,” he says.
Toothpastes come in a variety of forms, including gel, creamy paste, or powder, and may contain similar or different ingredients. Although all toothpastes differ slightly, says Erinne Kennedy, director of undergraduate training at Kansas City College of Dentistry, all contain the same general components.
- Humectants. A substance that reduces the loss of moisture, the humectant prevents the toothpaste from hardening in the tube, thus preventing the loss of water from the paste.
- Flavoring agents. The flavoring agents have changed over the years, but they give the toothpaste a bit of sweetness and a fresh minty taste and smell. Because they don’t contain sugar, they also don’t promote tooth decay. Kennedy says that in addition to mint, some interesting toothpaste flavors include tutti-frutti, chocolate, and even bacon.
- Thickening agents. These ingredients are also known as binders that help hold the toothpaste formula together.
- Detergent. The foamy bubbles you see after brushing come from the detergent and help spread the toothpaste all over your mouth.
Kennedy says other beneficial ingredients you should look for include:
- Sodium fluoride. Sodium fluoride is a safe way to strengthen teeth and prevent tooth decay.
- Arginine bicarbonate. This feeds the good bacteria in your mouth so they can grow and maintain a healthy oral microbiome, also known as good bacteria. It also helps reduce tooth sensitivity.
- Xylitol. Xylitol is a sweetener that not only makes your toothpaste taste good, but is also toxic to bad bacteria. Due to its toxicity, xylitol can help reduce the number of bad bacteria in your mouth, thereby preventing disease.
- Baking soda. Baking soda or baking soda helps raise the pH, the measure of acidity, of your mouth and helps prevent tooth decay. It also creates an environment for good bacteria to grow in your mouth.
The ADA Seal of Acceptance is a widely recognized and important symbol of dental product safety and effectiveness. The American Dental Association claims that every product bearing the ADA seal has been scientifically evaluated by an independent body of scientific experts from the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs to be safe and effective. To earn the seal, companies are often asked to meet higher standards than those required by law. Products that do not meet these standards are not eligible for the seal.
Is more expensive toothpaste worth it?
Kennedy says there are several professional-grade toothpastes that might be a bit more expensive than what you buy at a store, but they are very effective. If your dentist recommends one, it’s worth paying the extra cost. If you have severe staining or sensitivity caused by oral disease, she adds, a toothpaste used to treat whitening or sensitivity may not work for you. If you notice that your toothpaste isn’t working, you should schedule a dental checkup to rule out any underlying issues. “But in general, toothpastes deliver on their promises to help prevent disease and improve the oral microbiome,” says Kennedy.
Do not rinse after brushing
To get the most out of your toothpaste, Kennedy recommends not rinsing right after brushing. If you rinse after brushing, you wash away the active ingredients, often before they can do the job they were designed to do. “After brushing, you can spit the extra toothpaste down the sink, but then leave the tiny bubbles around your teeth to strengthen them and work to keep the bacteria in your mouth healthy,” she advises.