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Be choosy about your paste

We hardly give much thought to the thing we start and end our day with.

Be choosy about your paste

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Dr Pratibha Gupta

We hardly give much thought to the thing we start and end our day with. We may brush our teeth first thing in the morning and before bed but we hardly give it a thought to the toothpaste we choose. 

Choosing the right toothpaste can be tricky as there are numerous options available nowadays — gel, whitening, fluoride, anti-cavity, anti-tartar toothpastes, etc. The thumb rule to choose your toothpaste should be according to your oral health needs. While selecting a toothpaste, always look for IDA (Indian Dental Association) approval and the fluoride content. It assures about the safety and effectivity of the toothpaste and also ensures that the tall claims made by that brand are legitimate. 

Common ingredients 

A basic knowledge of toothpaste ingredients can be of help in choosing the right toothpaste. Toothpastes can be available in gel, powder or paste form.

Abrasives: Abrasives form the main ingredient of any toothpaste as these help in removing the plaque (soft, invisible layer on teeth), bacteria and food stains from the tooth surface. Calcium carbonate and silicates are commonly used abrasives agents.

Frothing agents: These agents are added to make froth that helps to bubble out the food particles and bacteria. It also gives the feeling of cleanliness and freshness. Sodium lauryl sulphate is commonly used detergent.

Humectants: These are used to keep the moisture locked in toothpaste and to avoid its drying. Glycerol is used as humectant in majority of toothpastes.

Thickeners: Thickeners are added to give proper consistency to the toothpaste. Seaweeds are mainly used as thickeners.

Flavours: Artificial sweeteners like saccharine are often used to make the toothpaste taste better. Flavours like mint, strawberry, bubblegum etc. are used especially in kids’ toothpastes.

Various kinds of toothpastes available 

  • Tartar-control toothpaste.
  • Anti-sensitivity toothpaste.
  • Fluoride toothpaste.
  • Whitening toothpaste.
  • Toothpastes for kids.
  • Ayurvedic toothpaste.
  • Manjans/Toothpowders.
  • Home remedies.

Tartar-control toothpastes: Tartar is a hardened layer of bacteria on teeth. Its softer version is called plaque. Plaque can be cleaned by regular brushing. But if not cleaned properly, plaque turns into hard tartar. Some toothpastes have ingredients like pyrophosphates, triclosan, zinc citrate which can control tartar accumulation on teeth.

Anti-sensitivity toothpastes: These toothpastes should be used by people whose teeth are sensitive to hot and cold. However, anti-sensitivity toothpaste should be used for shorter duration of time (15 days to one month).

Constant and prolonged use of anti-sensitivity toothpaste is not advisable, as these contain strontium chloride or potassium nitrate or arginine compounds. Senstivity in teeth happens because of open tubules in dentin i.e the second layer of teeth next to enamel. These compounds block the open dentinal tubules and help in controlling sensitivity. However, anti-sensitivity toothpaste should be used only after dentist’s advice as there can be numerous other reasons for tooth sensitivity.

Fluoride toothpastes: Fluoride is a natural mineral that helps in decreasing tooth decay. It is a must in a toothpaste as it makes the tooth enamel stronger and also helps in remineralisation of teeth in cases of initial damage of teeth. But for children fluoride toothpaste is advised after six years.

Ayurvedic/herbal toothpaste: Many options are available but do check for the proper ingredients, especially abrasive agents.

Manjans/Toothpowders: Many toothpowders are also available; however, toothpastes are a better choice rather than manjans/toothpowder. This is because toothpowders contain more abrasive agents which leads to scratching of enamel and in long run it can lead to more of stains and sensitivity.

Home remedies: A common remedy for teeth whitening is the mix of water and baking soda. It definitely removes the surface stains effectively but should not be used too often because of its abrasive action.

Next time you want to buy a toothpaste, keep these tips in mind. Choose according to your needs; don’t forget to look for IDA approval and fluoride content.

Kids’ toothpastes

This category of toothpastes has a variety of options in taste, flavour and odour. Numerous flavours like strawberry, mango and other fruits and bubblegum are available so as to motivate kids for regular tooth brushing. Check for the fluoride content though as fluoride for kids below 6 is not advisable. many non-fluoridated toothpastes are available.

Whitening toothpastes

These toothpastes do not contain any bleach. Rather these have more of abrasives and chemicals to scrape off the surface stains leading to whiter teeth. To some extent they can damage the tooth enamel. For those wishing for whiter teeth, these can be used in limit with dentist’s permission.

— The writer is a Panchkula-based dental surgeon

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